Reconciling Ministries

FCUMC “Heart for Others Team:” The Discernment Process for Becoming a Reconciling Church

Dear Church Members,

After a discussion with and approval by our Church Council  April 2016, an invitation was made in the May edition of the monthly Epistle newsletter for anyone who wished to participate in a new small group to begin a discovery and discernment process around taking a more public stance on full inclusion of LGBT persons by becoming what is known as a Reconciling Church.  The team members listed on this page came together for this purpose in June 2016 and named themselves “Heart for Others” (HfO).

To provide context, the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline – essentially our denomination’s laws – contains language that, in the view of many United Methodists, discriminates and marginalizes gay and lesbian members. The practice of homosexuality is declared “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The UMC Book of Discipline also considers it a chargeable offense for a clergy member to be “a self-avowed practicing homosexual,” and/or to conduct same-sex marriages.

The purpose of the HfO team has been to learn about the process that over 800 United Methodist Churches have already taken in publicly aligning themselves as “Reconciling Congregations,” and by affiliating themselves with the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN)   RMN is a denomination-wide group, formed over 20 years ago, to advocate changes to the portions of the UMC Book of Discipline that discriminate against gay and lesbian persons. The HfO group has been meeting over the past several months to understand the Reconciling Church process and to prayerfully plan educational and discussion events that would engage our congregation in the discerning process and would prepare us for a church member vote on FCUMC becoming a Reconciling Church. In addition to being listed in a national registry, becoming a Reconciling Church would provide a more public and intentional stand for justice with our LGBT brothers and sisters in the United Methodist Church.

More recently, the Heart for Others group reached out to some of the 33 Reconciling UMC Churches in the Puget Sound area.  Representatives from two of these churches generously shared their experiences and best practices with the HfO group. Leveraging these discussions, the HfO group has planned a series of informational events to foster education and discussion around LGBT issues and concerns.

As a congregation, we have recently completed a year-long discernment process and chosen to make a bold statement – to truly be open and inclusive to all persons – and are now recognized as a Reconciling congregation in the Reconciling Ministries Network.

The Heart for Others team continues efforts to communicate our welcoming message inside and outside the church and to define opportunities for further learning and active mission. More information will be forthcoming soon as these plans unfold.

If you would like to share in our Reconciling Ministries efforts or join the team, please contact Pastor Joyce pastor@fairwoodumc.org or Dwight Clark, team chair dwight.clark@comcast.net.