Reconciling Process at Westchester UMC
I. Before beginning the Reconciling Process:
Prior to the General Conference in 1972 the United Methodist Church did not have any formal statements regarding homosexuality and no formal restrictions on gay or lesbian persons serving as clergy or in other leadership roles. That reflected the situation of both the Methodist Church (1939-1968) and the Evangelical United Brethren Church (1946-1968), the two bodies that merged in 1968 to form our denomination.
Starting April 1972 the denomination began to make declarations at the level of the General Conference about these issues. In April 1972 proposed language for the Social Principles statement in the Discipline only included an affirmation of the “sacred worth” of gay and lesbian persons, their need for the ministries of the church, and the need to protect their rights in civil society. That statement, however, provoked a motion from the floor of the General Conference that added the clause, “though we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching” (1972 Discipline, p. 86).
At each General Conference, held every 4 years since then, there have been motions attempting to remove those phrases from the Book of Discipline. Again, in preparation for the 2012 General Conference the delegates from Annual Conferences and Jurisdictions prepared motions to remove them.
May 2012: Again, delegates at the General Conference decide to keep language in the 2012 Book of Discipline.
Since the 2012 General Conference, the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction have agreed to a Statement of Gospel Obedience and prepared this statement: “In response to our common belief that God’s grace and love is available to all persons, the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church states our belief that the United Methodist Church is in error on the subject of “homosexuality’s incompatibility with Christian teaching.”
We commend to our bishops, clergy, local churches and ministry settings, the challenge to operate as if the statement in Para. 161F does not exist, creating a church where all people are truly welcome.”
II. Reconciling Process Specific Actions by Month:
A group of WUMC congregants met and formed the Reconciling Congregation Task Force (RCTF) to explore WUMC becoming a Reconciling Congregation.
The Task Force holds its’ first meeting, and formulates the goal: To explore the idea of becoming a Reconciling Congregation so that we may embody Christ and extend God’s welcoming love to all. Church Council approved the RCTF goal.
Sept 9, an informational brochure was created and distributed to the congregation.
Messenger article: “Love your Neighbor” – introduced the Reconciling Congregation Task Force.
Sept 9, a resource table (poster board, books, pamphlets, articles, & DVDs) was staffed by DJ and Erica Cookman and Carolyn Schlumberger in Fellowship Hall for Rally Day. It was moved to the Narthex on Sept 16, where it has been each Sunday. Congregants were encouraged to borrow the materials for review at home.
During Sunday Worship Service, Sept 23, John Barriga and Becky Foley introduced the concept of becoming a Reconciling Congregation.
Three workshops were held:
Oct 7 #1: Video and discussion. Video: “Fish Out of Water”
Oct 14 #2: Video and discussion. Video: “For the Bible Tells Me So”
Oct 28 #3: Q & A session led by Bill Farnum
Guest Preacher: Rev.Dr. Pat Langlois, from the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles.
Messenger article: “Love your Neighbor” –explanation of Reconciling Congregation.
Messenger article: Report of Oct activities.
Nov 18, Rev. John W. Mills Jr., Pastor Emeritus, presented the Diversity Moment during the Worship Service.
December 2012/January 2013:
Messenger article: “Home for the Holidays”
Messenger, Rev Mills devoted his monthly column, “John’s Pen”, to an explanation of the reasons for becoming a Reconciling Congregation
Jan 20, at Children’s Time, Erica Cookman read the book, “The Crayon Box that Talked” by Shane DeWolf, and the children gave out Diversity buttons to the congregation.
RCTF composes the Welcoming Statement.
Feb 10, Ellyse Barriga presented the Diversity Moment
RCTF presents to the Church Council:
Request for All Church vote to decide if WUMC should become a Reconciling Congregation.
Church Council approved the Welcoming Statement and scheduled a Charge Conference for Apr 28.
Messenger article by Virginia Ford, “Psalm 100”
At Children’s Time Mar 17 John Jerman read the book, “Being Different is Being Normal” by Joel Brieske
Messenger article by Erica Cookman, definition of reconciling, an act of harmonizing.
Messenger article by DJ Cookman, on making ripples, what messages are we sending as a community of faith?
April 21, 2013:
10 AM worship service: Rev Mills reviewed the meaning and significance of becoming a Reconciling Congregation
Church Council chairperson explained the voting process and Q&A session was held immediately after the worship service
April 28, 2013:
The vote to become a Reconciling Congregation did not pass with the required 80% approval rate. However this vote was invalidated by the District Superintendent, Rev., Dr. Kathy Wilborn, due to discrepancies in the voting process.
June 9, 2013:
WUMC congregation votes to become a Reconciling Congregation with an 80% approval rate, at a Charge Conference chaired by Rev., Dr. Kathey Wilborn.
WUMC officially becomes a Reconciling Congregation through the Reconciling Ministries Network.