How did Reconciling Ministry start at AFUMC?
The Reconciling Ministry team has been hard at work for several years now at AFUMC. However, getting this dynamic group together was no small feat. The decision to become a Reconciling Ministry is one that affects the entire congregation, and therefore takes much thinking and preparation beforehand.
Lighting the Fire
Our journey towards reconciliation began during the 2014 Lenten season. Our pastor brought in a guest speaker who led a discussion about the discriminating language in the Book of Discipline regarding the LGBTQ community and the need for the Methodist church to reconcile with this community. This message resonated with a few participants and we started down the road to formally becoming a reconciling church.
Education, Planning, and Approvals
To move forward with a discernment process, we needed approval from the Vision Team and the Church Council. This is a very divisive subject in the Methodist Church (and elsewhere), and we spent many hours educating ourselves and preparing for discussions with these committees. We attended local Reconciling Convocations as well as the National Reconciling Convocation in August 2015. We used resources from the Reconciling Ministries Network and called on leaders who have successfully guided other churches to become reconciling in the South Puget Sound Area. It wasn’t easy, but our planning and perseverance paid off as we finally received approval to move forward with the discernment process in February 2016.
As a committee, we planned events to engage the congregation in open dialog about the treatment of LGBTQ persons in the Book of Discipline. We distributed and responded to survey questions documenting answers to many questions, provided books and information for study, held a “testimonial luncheon” for the congregation to hear first-hand experiences from fellow members, and organized small group studies for more intimate, meaningful conversation about LGBTQ issues and scripture.
Key to our decision-making was the full support of our pastors. They provided guidance to the committee, helped us navigate the approval process, and assisted in laying the foundation for biblical study of the subject in Sunday sermons and individual conversations.
On September 11 we took a “straw poll” of the congregation to determine whether we could move forward with an official vote or if we had more work to do. The poll indicated that we were ready!
On October 30, 2016 we held an All Church Conference, and with 95% acceptance voted to become a local, reconciling church!
While becoming a Reconciling Ministry was a huge step for our congregation, our work has only just begun.