Q: I thought we were already a Reconciling Congregation?
A: Yes, we have a welcoming statement on our website, but since that was defined the world hasn’t stood still, and because of recent events and circumstances – especially the recent division over whether to change the Book of Discipline to include all people – we feel we should learn more together, and understand whether, as a congregation, we should take a more intentional stance towards being a welcoming and safe church.
Q: What is the process?
A: We will first arrange for a series of information sessions followed by a vote of the congregation. We feel it is better to hear the “voice” of the congregation versus a vote by a committee or board.
Q: How will a vote be conducted?
A: The Heart for Others Team would like to give all active members of the church an opportunity to vote on becoming a Reconciling Church. Active members are defined as any person who is on our membership roll and who has contributed to or attended in the past four years. If you are an active member and did not receive a letter and ballot in the mail, please contact Pastor Joyce. If you are not currently an active member and would like to become one by the voting deadline of June 4th, please also contact Pastor Joyce.
Ballots may be placed in the white lock box at the church beginning May 21st. The box will be on Joletta’s desk in the office during office hours and on the welcome table in the Narthex on Sundays. Ballots may also be mailed to the church and need to be received no later than Saturday, June 3rd, so they can be counted on June 4th.
Q: What actions are expected after the vote?
A: A few might be:
- Given that the annual conference is in June, this set of activities and vote will provide our representatives an understanding of where our congregation stands beforehand.
- More actively engaging in support of the LGBTQ community
- Take positive steps to become a more welcoming church – not just the “hand shake” welcome as we know it, but through our public and visible actions and activities as a church, outwardly show that our church is a safe space and we will “do no harm”; you are welcome, please come in and be part of this church family!
Q: Are most Reconciling Churches in the Western part of the United States?
A: There are 827 Reconciling Ministries globally. A list of UMC Reconciling Churches can be found on the Reconciling Ministries Network web site here: http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/find-a-reconciling-community/. There are Reconciling Churches in all 50 states, including a surprising number in some of the Southern U.S. States, especially in Texas (80 total – more than Washington State and Oregon combined).
Q: When is the PNW UMC scheduled for intentional prayer for discernment of the LGBTQ issues that need to be addressed prior to the General Conference in 2020?
A: We think the focus for the PNW UMC would be in December 2017. We will work to find this information and share once we have confirmation.
Q: What specific actions will we do to make this a safe place for transgender members (or potential members)?
A: We would affirm any one in their gender identity and support them in living their authentic life. If this environment doesn’t feel safe, we will be responsive and advocate for their needs.
Q: How will we address the needs of people of color who are also LGBTQ?
A: Being a person of color and also LGBTQ brings its own unique challenges and requires certain sensitivities. We are committed to ongoing education on these types of issues.
Q: Are we willing to lose members who do not believe we should be a reconciling church? If so, how will we adjust to being smaller?
A: It would, of course, be sad to lose members of our church over this issue, but people have to make their own choices. We are trying to love and welcome all people to be part of the body of Christ.
Q: How will becoming a Reconciling Church affect us financially by the greater church?
A: To date there have been no actions by the greater church on individual reconciling congregations.
As a reminder, we have a “Heart for Others” question box in the narthex – please feel free to write any questions or comments you might have about becoming a Reconciling Church and place them in the box. You may submit questions or comments anonymously, or, if you wish a response, you may indicate on the paper.