SUNDAY, APRIL 10, 2016 at 11:45 AM – 1:00 PM in the Fellowship Hall
Delegates to the United Methodist General Conference joined us to talk about the United Methodist Church and our ministries to LGTBQ persons. We explored some of the legislative proposals that General Conference 2016 would debate and how those proposals might impact the UMC’s official position which was adopted in 1972 and states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The Emmanuel UMC Administrative Council, after 18 months, seven discernment forums and input from 164 persons who are active in the life of Emmanuel UMC, voted to become a Reconciling United Methodist Church at our meeting on Tuesday, November 27th, 2012.
How did this process get started?
In July 2011, a group of EUMC members and some EUMC staff began a series of informal meetings to discuss ways that our church might hold respectful congregational conversations to explore how EUMC can be more welcoming to all of God’s children, including people of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and, in particular, whether EUMC should adopt a Welcoming Statement and identify itself as a Reconciling Church.
What is a Reconciling Church?
The United Methodist Book of Discipline reminds us that “we are called to be faithful to the example of Jesus’ ministry to all persons” (¶139) and implores “families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(¶161.F) Reconciling congregations consider these evangelical instructions to be a serious and valuable teaching that should be accurately represented by the church.
What does it meant to say that Emmanuel UMC is a Reconciling Church?
Reconciling United Methodist Churches, as part of its mission:
(1) adopt a Welcoming Statement that, in addition to welcoming people of all ages, races, ethnic backgrounds, marital status, socio-economic conditions, abilities, nationalities, etc., also specifically includes language that welcomes people of different sexual orientations and gender identities,
(2) decide how to communicate the Welcoming Statement to others outside the church,
(3) usually affiliate with the national group, Reconciling Ministries Network, which works “for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church”.
Why should a UM church adopt a Welcoming Statement? Doesn’t our church already welcome everyone?
A Welcoming Statement communicates an inclusive message of welcome to all people and indicates that this particular church values diversity in its many forms. The current policies of the United Methodist Church define only one group of people as “incompatible with Christian teaching”: homosexual people. Since this group of people is explicitly excluded, and thereby is expressly made to feel unwelcome, any Welcoming Statement should be just as specific in its inclusion of this group of people.
Current denominational policies preclude the full participation of homosexual persons in the life of the church. Currently, our discipline: 1) states that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching”; and 3) gives pastors the discretion to exclude homosexuals from church membership.
In comparison to these policies, the Reconciling movement seeks to welcome all persons (including homosexual people) into the life and ministry of the church, so that church is a safe place for all of God’s people. Currently homosexual persons and their families would not feel safe or welcome in a UM church unless that church has adopted a Welcoming Statement that specifically states that they are welcome.
What information did the Administrative Council use to make this decision to become a Reconciling UMC?
The Administrative Council used the data collected from the seven different reconciling forums that have been held at Emmanuel over 18 months. The Administrative Council also used the data collected from the welcoming statement feedback sheet. At the start of this 18 month process, the Administrative Council outlined and communicated to the congregation in writing, on the website, and in talks during worship how data would be collected from the congregation and how the final decision about being a Reconciling congregation would be made. The Administrative Council would only consider data from the forums and the welcoming statement feedback forms that were signed so we could be sure that people were only counted once. The Administrative Council also communicated to the congregation that we would only consider becoming a Reconciling UMC if over 80% of the data we collected from the congregation indicated support for becoming a Reconciling UMC.
FINAL DATA REPORT
PART ONE: Data from Forums 1 through 7
Number of people attending who filled out an evaluation form and gave their names: 68*
59 people said “yes” they would support EUMC becoming Reconciling = 87%
8 people said “undecided” = 12%
1 person said “no” = 1 %
PART TWO: Data from Feedback Forms for Welcoming Statement
Number of people who filled out a Feedback Form and gave their names: 96*
86 people liked the Welcoming Statement as written = 90%
7 people liked the Welcoming Statement and offered suggestions or improvements = 7%
3 people thought that EUMC should not use a Welcoming Statement = 3%
Ephesians Chapter 4, verses 15-16: Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows, and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.