Reconciling Ministries at NBUMC
June is Pride Month!
North Bethesda United Methodist Church a is a member of Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling Ministries (BWARM)
On Tuesday, June 28, 2011 members of NBUMC who had participated in the reconciling education series completed the final step to become a reconciling congregation. We were led through a faith-driven consensus service, guided by facilitators Revs. Don and Anne Stewart. In a warm and loving environment, 60 NBUMC members sat in a circle and individually voiced their hopes and concerns in taking this final step. Those who were not able to attend (but who had taken part in at least one workshop) filled out a reflection tool, voicing their hopes and concerns. These were read by the facilitators. At the conclusion of the discussion, there was no doubt that NBUMC was ready to make the final step into living the reconciling mission that the church already had proclaimed.
This process began approximately seven years ago when the reconciling process was introduced. The result of that process was the completion of two steps: to draft an inclusive welcoming statement, and to publish this statement publically. The final decision to become recognized as a reconciling congregation was tabled at that time.
In January 2011, the youth at North Bethesda United Methodist, motivated by a series of bullying episodes against Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered and Bisexual (LGTB) peers locally as well as nationally, approached Church Council to ask to untable the reconciling process and take the final step of officially becoming a reconciling church. Through the mentoring of Sara Sheppard, Rich McManus, Diane Barberesi and Rev. Deb and with the assistance of members of BWARM, the youth began the thoughtful process of providing educational workshops for members to attend. The youth mandated a required attendance at one of the many workshops in order to participate in the final consensus decision. This mandate was approved by church council.
These well-attended workshops were varied and covered all educational components of the reconciling journey. We had panel discussions with members and friends of NBUMC sharing their journey as either an LGTB person or as a family with LGTB members. We heard a panel discussion with two divergent opinions on homosexuality and the bible. We screened movies on the subject of church, homosexuality and the bible. An ethicist spoke to the OAKS about his personal journey on this subject. Sara Sheppard led a bible study on Wednesdays on homosexuality and the bible.
One of the more frequent questions was how this decision might impact our church. Reconciling churches are not required to pay any monies to the reconciling movement. Churches that become reconciling typically do not see a reduction in membership; the most common occurrence is an increase in membership, primarily of new families. Reconciling churches have not had issues of violence or hate directed at them. How a congregation chooses to publicize their reconciling status is up to the individual church.
NBUMC is excited to become the first reconciling United Methodist church in Montgomery County and now joins a growing group of 400 reconciling churches throughout the country.
We are proud of our youth in leading us to this decision. NBUMC has always been a special place, welcome to all and inclusive. Now those who are searching for such a church will find us more easily.