In May of 2016, Asbury United Methodist Church formally voted to become a Reconciling Church, and to join the Reconciling Ministries Network. At Asbury, ALL are welcome!
What is a Reconciling Congregation?
A Reconciling Congregation celebrates human diversity and recognizes that all people are the beloved children of God and are of sacred worth. It welcomes the contribution each person makes to the Body of Christ.
A Reconciling Congregation is one that publicly welcomes all people into full participation of church life, including those who have known the pain of exclusion and discrimination, specifically and intentionally welcoming gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people.
The concept of Reconciling Congregations evolved after changes were made in 1972 to the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, specifically “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Paragraph 304.3). Based on this statement, later additions to the Book of Discipline prohibited ordination of LGBTQ people and restricted marriage services offered to them by the church.
The Book of Discipline cannot be changed by an individual, a congregation, or an Annual Conference; it can only be changed by the General Conference, which meets once every four years. Hence a Reconciling Congregation joins others in an effort to change the exclusionary language in the Book of Discipline to ensure full participation of LGBTQ. A Reconciling Congregation adds its voice to other voices in a network of like-minded individual, congregations, and Annual Conferences. The Reconciling Ministries Network is such an organization.
What is the Reconciling Ministries Network?
The Reconciling Ministries Network is a national grassroots organization working to change the United Methodist Church’s exclusionary policies against LGBTQ people as written in the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline. It also works with people and congregations to understand and prevent the pain caused within the church by such policies.
How did Asbury get to this point?
About five years ago, the subject of homosexuality and the church was discussed by a committee. They proposed, and the Church Council adopted, the Welcoming Statement that appears on the Asbury website and the Sunday worship Bulletins.
In November of 2014, the topic arose again, this time in a spiritual small group troubled by the language in the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline that excludes bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people from full participation in the church based on the belief that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (paragraph 304.3, added in 1972). The Reconciling Committee then formed under the auspices of Church Council. Their goal was to explore the idea of Asbury becoming a Reconciling Congregation, as described above.
Committee members began talking with people in the congregation one-to-one, gathering their hopes, concerns, questions, and ideas. To date, they’ve talked with (or more precisely listened to) about 260 people so far. The committee also sponsored a series of panel discussions to address some of the questions they heard in their interviews. In January 2016, Pastor Kim led a Bible study on the passages that are often cited in discussions of same-sex relationships.
For more information on the work of Asbury’s Reconciling Committee, read past issues of the Asbury Articles under the category of “Building an Inclusive Church”.
For more information, please visit the Reconciling Ministries Network website.