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.

The Hearts for Others group invites you to participate in any of the following upcoming events:

Tuesdays during Lent, beginning February 28: “Claiming the Promise” Bible Study: This 7-week study will be co-led by Pastor Joyce and rotating members of the Hearts for Others group. The focus of the study is to understand what the Bible says about homosexuality and how these scriptures have been misinterpreted by many Christians.

Saturday, March 25:  Potluck Meal event at 6:00 pm in Benedict Hall, followed by a Panel Discussion at 6:45 pm in the Sanctuary. The panel will be made up of three lesbian and gay persons from local United Methodist Churches. Each panelist will have the opportunity to share their story with us and to talk about the importance of becoming a Reconciling Congregation from their point-of-view. A question and answer session will follow.

Saturday, April 1:  A screening of “Gender Revolution,” a two-hour National Geographic Channel special, hosted by Katie Couric, will be held in the Sanctuary at 7:00 pm, followed by a question and answer session.

Saturday, April 22: An informational Panel Discussion on the topic of Transgender will be held in the Sanctuary at 7:00 pm, followed by a question and answer session.

May (date TBD): Attend a “What’s Next” guided brainstorm session on what a Reconciling Church at FCUMC might look like.

When and how will a Reconciling Church decision be made?

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.

Questions, Concerns or Comments?

The Heart for Others group wishes to make this process as open, respectful and transparent as possible. To this end, a few different methods for asking questions and voicing concerns, feedback or comments has been set up for anyone in the church to use:

  1. “Heart for Others” Question Box: Write any questions or comments you might have about becoming a Reconciling Church and place them in the Heart for Others Question Box, found in the Narthex, on the table to the right of the Sanctuary. You may submit questions or comments anonymously, or, if you wish a response, you may indicate on the paper form next to the box.
  2. Email your questions or comments to the Heart for Others team at: heartforothers@fairwoodumc.org.
  3. Contact any Hearts for Others team member for a one-to-one dialogue.