Reconciling Ministries Task Force

RMN OVERLAY

RMN Q&A!

(Questions submitted March 10, 2024)

1. If, at the General Conference this year, the policies regarding denying ordination to LGBTQ people and allowing same-sex marriages by UMC clergy and within UMC churches is changed and overturned, wouldn’t that make the reconciling ministries unnecessary?

Great question! Since the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) was initially formed in order to push back against restrictions on LGBTQ participation in the church, it might make sense to assume that once the restrictive language is removed from the Book of Discipline, there would be no more need for the Network. However, rules, hearts, and cultures don’t always change at the same rate.

For example:

The rules restricting the participation of women in ordained ministry and in leadership at General Conference were removed in the 1950’s. And yet, we still need the advocacy ministry of COSROW (Commission on the Status and Role of Women) to fight against sexual harassment and misconduct in the church, gender inequality in appointment-making and salaries, and the outdated assumptions about gender roles that sometimes affect our church and society.

Similarly, the rules relegating Black UM churches to a separate Jurisdiction from white churches when the UMC first formed, and the restrictions limiting Black clergy to pastor only Black churches have been officially removed from our Book of Discipline. But CORR (Commission on Religion and Race) and BMCR (Black Methodists for Church Renewal) are still needed to advocate for justice and equity for Black Methodists, and to fight ongoing, underlying racism and colonialism in the Church.

You might be interested to know that on the agenda at General Conference this year will be budgetary allocations that will determine the future of ministries such as

· Black Methodists for Church Renewal.

· MARCHA (Metodistas Asociados Representando la Causa de los Hispano-Americanos)

· National Federation of Asian American United Methodists.

· Native American International Caucus.

· Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.

Members of these groups would say that, while the Book of Discipline supports and affirms their participation, their work is far from done.

So, you might say say, “we would hope” that eventually the Reconciling Ministries Network will no longer be necessary, and LGBTQIA+ persons will be wholeheartedly welcomed and accepted at all levels of the church. But in the meantime, advocates for full equality have work yet to do.

 

2. The UMC has had the “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors” campaign for a few years now. Doesn’t that cover everyone, like the reconciling ministries aims for? I think our church is very welcoming.

We agree! “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” should include everyone! We also agree (and celebrate!) that Wesley Church is very welcoming.

The problem is that, because the UMC in particular, and the Christian Church in general, does not truly welcome all people (either by policy or by practice), LGBTQIA+ people who are looking for a church where they will be treated with dignity and respect will likely not even give Wesley a chance unless we make a point to communicate, “we know what others may say – but at Wesley you are welcome!” We know that there are churches – even in Bloomington-Normal! – where a lesbian couple cannot have their baby baptized, where a gay couple cannot sit together in church holding hands, where a transgender youth cannot convince people they are who they say they are. And, of course, there are churches – including ours – where same-sex couples cannot celebrate their marriages, and queer people cannot answer God’s call to be ordained as clergy.

We hope to get the word out that Wesley UMC does not discriminate, and that regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, everyone is welcome here!

 

3. I’m afraid if we become a reconciling ministries church, we’ll lose members – people may think we’re ultra-liberal. Aren’t we supposed to be a church for all people - whether conservative, centrist, or progressive?

Yes, yes, yes! We are a church for all people! And we do hope all people will feel welcome here, regardless of socio-political-theological perspective.

However, the risk you name here is real: there are likely some people in our congregation who would find their own theology to be “incompatible” with the idea of full inclusion. We have already lost a small number of people for this reason, and we sincerely grieve their loss. We also sincerely grieve the number of people we have lost due to the UMC’s “exclusion” – suggesting that they, their kids, their grandkids, their neighbors – would not be fully welcome here. Our perspective has been, “we will do whatever we can to help everyone feel included and welcome here. However, if what you need to feel included and welcome is for others to be excluded and unwelcome… then we can’t do that.”

But here is another significant point: if we are not clear about what the Reconciling Ministries Network is, or what our RMN Task Force is encouraging, then we may also feel the loss of members who have misunderstood what this is all about. If people come to believe that becoming Reconciling indicates that a congregation is becoming ultra-liberal, then we (the Task Force) have not done our job well.

So let’s take this opportunity to clarify:

Becoming a Reconciling Congregation means that:

· We will welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

· We will treat all people with respect and dignity.

· We will adopt this statement from the Reconciling Ministries Network website (rmnetwork.org):

“We celebrate God’s gift of diversity and value the wholeness made possible in community equally shared and shepherded by all. We welcome and affirm people of every gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, who are also of every age, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, level of education, and family structure, and of every economic, immigration, marital, and social status, and so much more. We acknowledge that we live in a world of profound social, economic, and political inequities. As followers of Jesus, we commit ourselves to the pursuit of justice and pledge to stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized and oppressed.”

If you have any more questions about this statement, about Reconciling Ministries, or about LGBTQIA+ people and the church, please talk to a member of the RMN Task Force, or put a question in the Question Box.

Thank you!