TAMPA, Fla. -- On the 40th anniversary of the policy that states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” the number of United Methodist communities to publicly state their welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities has passed an important milestone.
Reconciling communities, those who have made an explicit welcome of LGBT people, now number more than 500. The anniversary and the milestone both occurred while the United Methodist Church meets in General Conference in Tampa, Fla., to debate the inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.
Madras United Methodist Church of Madras, Ore., and Aldersgate United Methodist Church of Chapel Hill, N.C., approved statements that specifically name a welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. These statements were received by the staff of Reconciling Ministries Network during the first week of General Conference.
To date, 502 churches, Sunday School classes, campus ministries and annual conference groups have strengthened the Reconciling Ministries Network through their witness for a fully inclusive church.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church had been using reconciling language for many years, but had never submitted the language to Reconciling Ministries Network until now.
“We had been living it out, but not been very public for years,” said Lyn Koehnline, a member of the congregation. “The proposed North Carolina constitutional amendment banning marriage equality prompted the church to be more public about its welcome.”
“Reaching 500 Reconciling Communities during both General Conference and the 40th anniversary of the ‘incompatible’ language is a significant sign,” said Rachel Harvey, associate executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network. “Clearly, there is growing desire among United Methodists to provide ministry to all of God’s children. We continue to pray that the United Methodist Church will recognize that the harmful policies of exclusion that have burdened the church for 40 years need to be eliminated.”
As soon as the 500 milestone was reached, it was exceeded. Even while General Conference continues, more reconciling statements are coming in. Two more reconciling communities have already been added, Grace United Methodist Church of Lake Bluff, Ill. and Stone Village Church in Columbus, Ohio.
The United Methodist Church is meeting in General Conference through May 4. Reconciling Ministries Network is working in coalition with several organizations to permit ministry to remove barriers to LGBT people. The Book of Discipline is considered official law and doctrine for the United Methodist Church. The General Conference is held every four years, and this is the only time when changes can be made to the Book of Discipline.
About Reconciling Ministries Network
Reconciling Ministries Network is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in The United Methodist Church. The organization takes its name from 2 Corinthians 5:1, “All this is from God who has reconciled us to God through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”