I have received a number of questions about what it means to be a “reconciling church” and what it does not mean. I have also been told about some misinformation that is circulating. So I sincerely hope that you will all read this article to its conclusion.
Reconciling Ministries has as its vision the full inclusion of persons into the United Methodist Church regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, ability (a reference to ‘dis’abilities), race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status as a faithful response to our shared baptismal vows to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It does not mean that we will start holding same sex weddings next month. Yes, the focus of this group is on the full inclusion of persons who identify as LGBTQ+ but at its heart, it is an extension of a ministry of inclusion that has been fought for throughout the, sometimes dark, history of our church. We have fought for the full inclusion of ethnic minorities and women. And despite the great progress made, there is still work left to be done for full inclusion of ethnic minorities and women.
As United Methodists, our Book of Discipline contains a section dedicated to ‘Social Principle’s’. Though not considered church ‘law’, these principles highlight our Christian responsibilities in and to (1) the natural world, (2) the nurturing community, (3) the social community, (4) the economic community, (5) the political community, and (6) the world community. We do not live in a bubble or vacuum. Rather we live in and thus have responsibilities in a family, church, local, city, state, national, and world community. This section of the Discipline concludes with our Social Creed:
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
To my knowledge, this is unique to what it means to be the people called ‘Methodists’. To reconcile means to restore a relationship or to cause to exist in harmony. Our LGBTQ+ siblings have been excluded and harmed when categorized as “incompatible with Christian teaching,” grounded in (if we reallllyyyy stretch our interpretations) to no more than 10 verses out of the 31,102 verses in the Bible (23,145 Old Testament and 7,957 New Testament). And legitimate arguments can be made (doesn’t mean you have to agree with the argument for it to have value or scholarly legitimacy) that none of these verses are about loving, committed relationships between equally yoked adult persons.
So why do we need to become ‘reconciling’ right now? Why not just wait for General Conference to sort it all out and just roll with the flow? First, our baptismal vows do not say to “take the easiest path and roll with the flow, don’t make waves, just get by without any risk to yourselves.” Our Social Principles and scripture calls us to action: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. To do nothing, to wait for the easiest path of least resistance is to proclaim that, while of course everyone is welcome here, it is only so long and so far as we are comfortable and at ease…just don’t cause us to stretch our understanding or to grow.
Brothers, sisters, siblings: we claim reconciliation in Christ for ourselves. But to be reconciled in Christ is not just an affirmation of faith or a set of beliefs. It is a way of living and being in the world. We cannot fully claim reconciliation for ourselves as long as we exclude or turn away when others exclude anyone from the family of God.
If you have made it this far, know that each and every one of you has become precious and beloved to me in our time together. It is my great desire that whatever the future holds for our cherished UMC, you and I as New Covenant will be walking together.
Peace be with you,