The Reconciling Ministries Welcome Statement
“We celebrate God’s gift of diversity and value the wholeness made possible in community equally shared and shepherded by all. We welcome and affirm people of every gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, who are also of every age, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, level of education, and family structure, and of every economic, immigration, marital, and social status, and so much more. We acknowledge that we live in a world of profound social, economic, and political inequities. As followers of Jesus, we commit ourselves to the pursuit of justice and pledge to stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized and oppressed.”
The Two Rivers Church Welcome Statement
From the beginning of the Jesus movement, followers of Christ declared that there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, nor is there male and female. We, the people of Two Rivers United Methodist Church join in this movement of the Holy Spirit and declare that we celebrate the diversity of our neighborhood and the world.
We welcome and affirm people of every gender identity, gender expression, and sexual and affectional orientation, who are also of every age, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, level of education, family structure, and of every economic, immigration, marital, and social status, and so much more. We believe that the body of Christ is more vital in its ministry when the whole diversity of the human family may enjoy full participation and leadership in the Church.
We welcome all who have known the pain of exclusion or discrimination in the Church and society, and acknowledge the pain caused by the exclusionary policies of the United Methodist Church. We will continue to work toward a more inclusive Church and invite you to join us in following Jesus Christ on the Way, marked by greater hospitality, kindness, justice, peace, understanding, and mutual respect.
Press Release for June 16, 2023
The people of Two Rivers United Methodist Church, which was organized in 1833 as the first Christian church in Rock Island County, will celebrate Reconciling Sunday in worship on June 25, at 9:30. This worship service will celebrate the passing of a welcome statement that affirms LGBTQ+ people and commemorate the church’s joining the Reconciling Ministries Network.
The Reconciling Ministries Network is a national organization of mostly United Methodists. It is made up of individuals, classes, small groups, and congregations who affirm LGBTQ+ people, support marriage and ordination rights for all people, and have pledged to work for liberation and intersectional justice for all people. The Reconciling Ministries welcome statement and the Two Rivers Church Welcome Statement are found below.
“’Do all the good you can,’ is an unofficial motto of our church, and I am so proud to be the pastor of people who put this into practice for the sake of Christ,” said Pastor Robb McCoy. “We love Rock Island so much, and our mission is to do all the good we can for the people of Rock Island, the Quad Cities, and the world. I hope that we can make our community a little more welcoming, loving, and just.”
Viminda Shafer is a member of Two Rivers Church and helped lead the congregation in discussions around inclusion. “As a queer Christian, born and raised a United Methodist, having my church home publicly declare their love and inclusion, their commitment to stand up for and protect the LGBTQ community, and align with social justice, has provided such relief I didn’t know I needed,” said Shafer. “It has lifted a weight off my shoulders knowing that I can freely walk into this church and be safeguarded against stigma and discrimination.”
The people of Two Rivers Church began a series of conversations in January around inclusivity. The goal in January was not to join RMN, but to explore issues of human sexuality and faith, and allow prayer and the Holy Spirit guide their direction. After a long process, a final vote was held on June 11, and the support for becoming a Reconciling Church was overwhelming.
Mark Swessinger, the Director of Music at the church, was ecstatic after the vote. “I have been an ally since I was 16 and my best friend came out to me. When I discovered that he would not be fully welcomed in my church, I began my quest for equality within the UMC,” said Swessinger. “When the results of our vote were announced, tears filled my eyes and my heart rejoiced. Finally, our doors were open to the LGBTQ community. One church at a time, the Church of Jesus will embrace his teaching and love all people for who they are. My heart is full.”
Two Rivers Church is the fifth congregation in the 87-county Illinois Great Rivers Conference to join RMN. There are at least two other churches in Rock Island who have made a similar statement of welcome in past years.
“We’re not unique. Although the general noise from Christianity is one of rejection toward LGBTQ+ people, the voice of Christ still welcomes all,“ McCoy said. “I can love Jesus, love the Bible and still affirm my LGBTQ+ siblings because loving another person is never a sin.”
Two Rivers Church is the oldest Christian church in the Quad Cities. Known for decades as “Old First,” the church in downtown Rock Island has hosted a free community meal on Saturdays for over 20 years. They work closely with World Relief in supporting immigrant and refugee families. The writing workshop Young Lions Roar is also housed at Two Rivers Church, and poets from the program will participate in the Reconciling Sunday celebration.
The Reconciling celebration will be on Sunday, June 25 at 9:30 a.m. There will be a cake and refreshments time for conversation immediately afterwards. Guests are invited to wear their pride and rainbows as a message on Psalm 23:4.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does affirming LGBTQ+ people go against the Bible?
It goes against some interpretations of the Bible. It is possible however, to affirm both your faith in the Bible and your LGBTQ+ friends. There are many scholarly, well-researched, and deeply thought-out reasons to affirm all people, even “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” (this language that is used in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that excludes people from being ordained as clergy). There are issues of translation, social context, cultural awareness, and biological understanding. There are more resources to explore this idea at the bottom of this page. but it boils down to the simple fact that loving another person is never a sin.
Why are we focusing on LGBTQ+ people, aren’t all people welcome?
Jesus Christ loves all and welcomes all. The earliest Christian creed – one that Paul quoted in his letter to the Galatians states that “There is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male and female.” This is the foundation of who we are as Christians, but that message has been lost over centuries of patriarchy, racism, and antisemitism.
We may feel that all people are welcome in our congregation, but the default message proclaimed by Christians in general, and the United Methodist Church in particular, is that LGBTQ+ people are not welcome. The Christian Church has done much to vilify, persecute, and demonize gay people. They have been made to feel unsafe within the walls of the Church. During the 2019 General Conference, The United Methodist Church upheld language that declared that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” and thus LGBTQ+ people shall be barred from ordained ministry and no church shall sanctify a same-sex wedding. This is the default position of the UMC. If we believe that LGBTQ+ people are of sacred worth, created in the image of God, and worthy of full inclusion into the life of the Church, we must state it explicitly. If we say nothing, we say that LGBTQ+ are not welcome.
We have been talking so much about LGBTQ+ inclusion. Why now?
Because it might save the life of a young person you know.
LGBTQ+ people are under attack. They are being threatened by lawmakers. They are made to feel unsafe in public. They are targeted by mass shooters. In February a Davenport man was arrested for making known his plans to stage a “mass shooting” targeting the gay community. LGBTQ+ young people are hearing messages of exclusion from their churches and pastors. If the United Methodist Church is making any headlines, it is about disaffiliation and churches splitting over how to respond to gay people in the church. The Global Methodist Church was born on May 1, 2022 because the UMC was too lenient toward LGBTQ+ people and too slow to make accommodations for schism. The overwhelming message that LGBTQ+ people hear from the Church is, “You are not welcome.” LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to die by suicide than their straight friends, but having a welcoming and affirming adult in their lives has been shown to greatly reduce their risk. Making a statement of welcome can literally save the life of a gay, lesbian, or transgender kid who is contemplating suicide.
Are we leaving the United Methodist Church?
In a word, no. Drafting and approving a statement of welcome is not an act of disaffiliation. Defiance, perhaps, but we will remain a part of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. At this time, no one has proposed that Two Rivers Church should disaffiliate from the UMC. There are churches in our conference that are leaving the UMC. Most are leaving because they feel that the UMC is too tolerant of LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Can’t we just wait until General Conference 2024 makes the UMC more inclusive?
There will be a General Conference meeting in 2024. It is possible that at that conference, the hurtful language that excludes LGBTQ+ people from the church is removed from the Book of Discipline. Given the voting dynamics of an international church, that is not guaranteed. Even with churches disaffiliating and joining the Global Methodist Church, there is no guarantee that 2024 will completely remove the harmful parts of the Discipline.
What is more likely to pass in 2024 is the “Christmas Covenant,” which is a “Regionalization” approach. This plan would allow for the United States to adopt its own rules for ministry (as every other nation is able to do. The United States is the only area of the global church that cannot alter the Discipline for its own ministry context). A United States conference would be much more likely to remove the harmful language in our Discipline and allow us to remain in conversation with international siblings in Christ who are not able to do so yet. There are a small, but growing, number of reconciling churches, ministries, and clergy in Africa and other areas, but they are overwhelmingly outnumbered. Remaining in connection with them will keep them resourced and help them feel less isolated and endangered.
So yes, we could wait, but the unfortunate truth is that the wait may be much longer than we want. And in the meantime, harm is being done. As the anti-LGBTQ+ noise (especially this close to Iowa) grows louder, it becomes more important to raise a voice of love and inclusion – Now.
(There is more information on some of these terms below)
What does it mean to be a Reconciling Church?
To be a part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a church must go through a process of discernment, discussion, and prayer (which we are currently doing). The congregation must also approve the RMN Welcome Statement by a vote of 75%. The people of Two Rivers votes, and they far surpassed this threshold.
Will we lose members if we affirm LGBTQ+ people in all aspects of the church?
Maybe. There may be some people who cannot in good conscience be a part of a church that affirms all people. This is unfortunate. A church is strongest when conservative and liberal people can remain together. There is value in having diversity of opinion. It is possible to disagree on Biblical interpretation and still remain in communion with one another.
Our intention is to be more inclusive and more welcoming, and not alienate anyone. It is also possible that not doing anything would lead to losing members as well. There are people who have been waiting for change within the United Methodist Church for a long time. Remaining silent may alienate them and make them search for a place that they feel is more inclusive.
If you are “on the fence,” it is important to consider: If we know the harm that is done to people when the church maintains exclusive language surrounding LGBTQ+ people, then the question we must ask however is this: Are we more worried about the harm that is done to people for trying to live their truest lives, or about the discomfort some may feel at living in disagreement? It is possible that we may lose members. It is also possible that we will save the lives of young people who are looking to us for answers and support.
How will outsiders respond to this? Will we become the “Gay Church”?
It is impossible to know how outsiders will react. It is highly unlikely that LGBTQ+ people will start streaming in. They have been harmed by the church for too long to just start coming in to worship next Sunday. Hopefully, however, in time we may be able to heal some wounds and earn trust with LGBTQ+ people and allies alike.
It is possible that there is a public backlash. Churches who have made affirming statements in the past have been targets of vandalism, or worse. Tensions in our society are high, and it is possible that if we make a public statement on inclusion, there could be repercussions. We must take that seriously.
The affirmation of LGTBQ+ persons as well as people of every color, age, physical, social class, ethnic background, nationality, and physical ability, is not only a necessary part of countering the discrimination explicit in the UMC Social Principles, but it is a crucial part of living into our social justice advocacy. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is an individual spiritual good news AND it is also a public social good news.
It is important that we do not stop with a welcome statement and a sticker on the door. We will work together as a people of faith to discern what it will mean to be a Reconciling Church beyond the day that we cast our votes. This might mean hosting workshops and speakers that are LGBTQ+ affirming. It might mean being involved in advocacy, supporting local LGBTQ+ organizations, or participating in Pride events. We will live into the details as we move forward. We must also recognize that many of God’s children are being persecuted, marginalized, and forced to suffer injustice. Being a Reconciling Church means that we will remember our baptismal vows to “accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
Timeline or “How did we get here?”
Pentecost 2022: At an informal gathering after worship at Two Rivers Church, a group of about 30 people decide that the congregation should move forward in taking an intentional look at LGBTQ+ inclusion. There is no vote, but there is general consensus that the congregation should engage in a series of conversations around the issue.
Summer of 2022: The Global Methodist Church is launched. The Global Methodist Church is a Methodist denomination of Protestant Christianity subscribing to views consistent with the conservative Confessing Movement. It is formed largely by former United Methodists who were disillusioned by the ongoing debate surrounding Biblical interpretation and LGBTQ+ inclusion and fear that the UMC has become too inclusive of LGBTQ+ people.
November 2022: The Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth, director of innovation and communication in the California-Pacific Conference, is elected a bishop by The United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdiction. He becomes the first openly gay African-American man to be elected a bishop in The United Methodist Church. Bishop Bridgeforth is the second gay Bishop in the UMC, joining Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was elected and consecrated Bishop in 2017. MORE
January 2023: The congregation at Two Rivers Church is invited to remain after worship to begin a series of Reconciling Conversations. The conversations are led by Pastor Robb McCoy and Viminda Shaffer, who is a lay member of Two Rivers Church. The sessions follow the model of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. They meet in order: Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience. Pastor Robb leads the discussions on Scripture and Tradition. Viminda leads the discussions on Reason and Experience. A summary of these discussions is distributed each week, and all of these summaries can be found below.
February 12, 2023: A Straw Poll of those participating in the Reconciling Conversations is taken. They are asked: “If you were asked to vote on the following statement, how would you vote?” The vote was 25 yes, 0 no. The statement was provided by Reconciling Ministries as their boilerplate welcome statement (which is found above).
February 19, 2023: The last of six Reconciling Conversations is held after worship. In this meeting we did an assessment of positives, negatives, risks, and opportunities. You can find a recap of the four discussions on Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience below.
February 22, 2023: Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent, a time of historical focus, fasting, and discernment.
March 5, 2023: Begin a time of prayer and discernment. The congregation was invited to participate in 28 Days of Dynamite Prayer. While this book is not explicitly about LGBTQ+ inclusion, it is an important step in discernment and reflection. This is a daily guide to prayer and can help the Church find power in the Holy Spirit.
April 3, 2023: Workshop and discussion to create Two Rivers Church’s own Welcome Statement. This was a volunteer group that met in the afternoon immediately after Bible study. Six lay people met to discuss and create the statement and discuss the pros and cons of joining the Reconciling Ministries Network.
April 12, 2023: Second workshop and discussion to finalized Two Rivers Church’s Welcome Statement. In an evening meeting, the group finalized the three proposals and the wording of our own three-paragraph welcome statement.
April 30, 2023: After gathering Church Council input and approval of the three proposals, the straw poll was announced in worship. The statements were released that evening were mailed to the congregation in the May edition of the Compass Newsletter the next day,
May 21, 2023: The results of the Straw Poll were overwhelmingly in favor. It is decided that a congregational vote will be held on June 11. Mail-in ballots were included in the June edition of the Compass Newsletter.
June 11, 2023: After worship, the vast majority of people in worship come down to Epworth Hall for one last time to ask questions, pray together, and vote. The votes are tallied with Rev. Robb McCoy and Rev. John Crede witnessing. The vote is approves both welcome statements and the joining of the Reconciling Ministries Network.
June 15, 2023: After time is given for mail-in ballots to come in, a press release is sent to local media and the website is updated. An email is sent out affirming the vote and announcing the upcoming Reconciling Sunday.
We live into our call to share the Good News of Jesus Christ and continue to work for intersectional justice for all oppressed people.
Recap of the Two Rivers Church Reconciling Conversations
Scripture (January 15, 2023)
On Sunday, January 15, around 30 people filled the back tables of the sanctuary to discuss issues of human sexuality and the Bible. This was the first of a series of meetings we will have on Sunday mornings. The structure of these conversations is “The Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” which is a way of thinking theologically. As we consider human sexuality, we will discuss how Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience apply. On Sunday we focused on Scripture. Pastor Robb led the discussion, but conversations also took place at the individual tables in small groups. A few highlights:
- The Word of God is revealed fully in Jesus Christ, and the Bible is a means to understand that revelation.
- “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” is not a bad acronym, but deeply incomplete.
- The Bible is a collection of stories about God and God’s people. It grew from an oral tradition and was recorded by individuals who were a part of a historical, cultural, and linguistic context.
- It was written in an ancient languages few of us can still understand, so we’re always dependent on the interpretation of others.
- The Bible is a love story, but can be weaponized.
- The doctrine of inerrancy is not a United Methodist doctrine. The UMC has never held the position that the Bible is the “inerrant and infallible Word of God.”
- The UMC Articles of Religion states, “The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.”
- Our understanding of Biblical marriage, adultery, and other concepts have shifted dramatically.
- The Bible says very little about monogamous, consenting adults in a same-sex relationship. References to homosexuality in the Old and New Testaments are in the context of religious rites and coercive relationships with uneven power dynamics.
Reason (January 22, 2023)
Our second Reconciliating Conversations on Sunday focused on Reason—and what we know about gender and sexuality based on modern social and biological science.
Viminda Shafer led the discussion. Despite the snow and inclement weather, around 20 people remained for discussion after worship on January 22. Viminda is the Community Relations & Development Coordinator for the Project of the Quad Cities. The Project is a non profit that health and human services, especially for LGBTQ+ people. A few important points from the discussion:
- Gender and sexuality are not binary systems. Male and female are not adequate to explain the diversity of human experience. Different levels of emotional and physical attraction can occur
- Gender is largely a social construct, one that has changed over the years. Gender norms such as hair length, fashion, and “acceptable” jobs have changed even in our own lifetimes. Gender identity is how a person feels about their gender. Gender expression is how they present in society. For many, these things can be in flux for an individual over time.
- Sex is more complicated than chromosomes. Scientific American states: “The popular belief that your sex arises only from your chromosomal makeup is wrong. The truth is, your biological sex isn’t carved in stone, but a living system with the potential for change.” Genetics, hormones, fetal development, neurobiology all affect one’s sex, sexuality, and gender.
- 45% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
- LGBTQ+ youth who felt high social support from their family reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who felt low or moderate social support.
- Among heterosexual youth, being religious is a “protective factor” that works against suicide. This is not true, however, among religious LGBTQ+ youth. In fact, at one study shows that religion is an added suicide risk factor for LGBTQ+ youth.
Tradition (January 29, 2023)
Our third Reconciliating Conversations on Sunday focused on Tradition — and what the Church has said about same-sex relationships over the centuries. We also gave space for those in attendance to give voice to their misgivings and fears about this process. A few important notes:
- The concept of falling in love then getting married is a new concept. Marriage has evolved, and much of the terminology has its roots in animal “husbandry.”
- In the early Church, marriage was only a Roman ritual, and was discouraged among Christ-followers.
- The Church’s attitude toward same-sex unions is not monolithic. Despite what some claim, there has not been unanimity in 2000 years of condemning same-sex unions.
- The idea that Greek had three neat categories of love—agape, eros, filia, which were akin to “Godly love,” “romantic love”, and “brotherly love,” respectively—is not accurate. It is much too simple, and there were many examples of these concepts of love overlapping.
- There are many ancient rituals of same-sex bonding. There are written liturgies for “Brotherhood Rituals,” and while many have argued that these were only for friends who wanted to be “like brothers,” it seems equally likely that these were same-gendered partnerships that included romantic love and sexuality.
Experience (February 5, 2023)
On Sunday we shared our fourth installment of our Reconciling Conversations. This week focused on “Experience.” The hour was centered on a conversation between Viminda Shaffer and Elizabeth. Ellie, age 16, shared her experience of growing up as a queer Christian kid. She has identified as queer for several years, and shared this in worship in 2021during our “Be Two Rivers” worship series that included testimonials from several members of our church family. Some highlights from a very emotional Sunday conversation:
- Ellie has experienced nothing but love and support from her church family. She feels safe, embraced, and loved at Two Rivers and is so thankful. “Sometimes I feel like I’m the luckiest gay girl in the world.”
- Ellie got emotional when she talked about some kids she knows who have not been accepted by their families. She wishes all of her friends could have a similar experience.
- Viminda expressed the fear that she lives with all the time whenever she “comes out.” It is not always safe to be gay in public. She also expressed the deep trauma she has felt inflicted on her by The Church. “The Church has hurt me deeply, but I love Two Rivers because this congregation has also saved me.”
- “I’m tired of the Church debating what to do with ‘The Gays.’”-Viminda
- “If you are more worried about losing some people or making some people uncomfortable than you are worried about the harm that is done to LGBTQ+ people every day, then you are not ready for this and you are not as inclusive as you think you are.” -Viminda
- Viminda shared the front page of the Feb. 4 Argus-Dispatch, with a story about a man arrested in Davenport for plotting a “mass shooting spree” targeting the gay community.
- It is not helpful to apologize for the pain that the Church has caused, because to do so puts the weight of forgiveness on her, which isn’t fair. Instead, we should all sit in the uncomfortableness and hurt.
- Question: “What would it mean to have a rainbow sticker on the front door of your church with a statement of welcome?” Ellie: “It would mean so much. I know its already true, but for my friends to be able to see that as they came in, that would be amazing. A great start.”
Christmas Covenant: The Christmas Covenant is a set of legislation and constitutional amendments submitted to the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) General Conference with the goal of establishing regional equity in the structures of the church for missional effectiveness while sustaining connectional unity. MORE
Disaffiliation: The process by which a United Methodist Congregations can leave the United Methodist Church and maintain possession of their property. Several congregations within the Illinois Great Rivers Conference have disaffiliated. It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict how many congregations will disaffiliate. The number, however, will not be insignificant.
General Conference: Typically General Conference meets every four years. This is the top governing body of the United Methodist Church and includes worldwide representation from lay people and clergy. The General Conference is the only body that can alter the Book of Discipline, which establishes rules, doctrines, and policies of the United Methodist Church.
General Conference 2019: A special General Conference that was called for in the midst of upheavel in 2016 surrounding LGBTQ+ inclusion. At GC2019 in Saint Louis, the Traditional Plan was upheld, which strengthened the church’s exclusionary language. This was the last official General Conference held, and the actions GC2019 remain intact.
General Conference 2020: A plan for amicable separation was scheduled to be voted on in 2020. Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation was all but settled by various leadership groups. This Conference however, never convened due to the global pandemic. It was postponed at first to 2021, and then again to 2022. When it was clear that international representatives would have trouble getting visas still in 2022, it was decided that the conference would be delayed until 2024.
General Conference 2024: The 2020 United Methodist General Conference will be held April 23 – May 3, 2024, at Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yes, you read that right. The 2020 General Conference will be held in 2024. This is a snafu that is still be sorted out with Judicial Council decisions.
Global Methodist Church – A conservative expression of Methodism, the Global Methodist Church was launched on May 1, 2022. From their website: “United Methodist Church leaders have failed to make timely arrangements for holding a General Conference in 2022, and so have postponed it for a third time. Therefore, the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation, a plan that would have resulted in an amicable and orderly separation will not be adopted until at least 2024. The Transitional Leadership Council determined it must launch the Global Methodist Church this year so local churches, annual conferences, and central conferences wanting to join it could do so as soon as possible.” MORE
Good News Magazine/Movement: A confessing reform movement that begin in 1967, the pre-infancy of the United Methodist Church. From the website: “Since 1967, Good News has been the classical evangelical witness and ministry for renewal and reform within The United Methodist Church. Our mission is to lead all people within The United Methodist Church to the faithful and vibrant practice of orthodox Wesleyan Christianity.” The Good News Movement helped birth the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which helped birth the Global Methodist Church. The Good News Magazine’s Summary of the United Methodist Conflict.
IGRC and IGRC for Unity: IGRC stands for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is conference to which Two Rivers UMC belongs. The IGRC is roughly defined as the lower two-thirds of Illinois (formerly the Central Illinois Conference and Southern Illinois Conference). IGRC for Unity is a group of laity and clergy within the IGRC that formed after the 2019 General Conference. It is made up of progressives and centrists who feel that the decisions made in 2019 were damaging to the mission and ministry of the Church. The group has since been organzing for reform and support within our conference. Pastor Robb McCoy has been writing a weekly Bible devotional for many months that is a part of the groups weekly newsletter.
Incompatible with Christian teaching: There is a long history of this clause being inserted into the United Methodist Book of Discipline. There was an attempt in 1972 (the first United Methodist Church General Conference after a 1968 merger between the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Evangelical United Brethren) to include a Social Principle that would affirm the sanctity of homosexual people. After much debate, the clause was inserted, thus creating an unsettling compromise that both affirmed the sacred worth of all people while at the same time denouncing homosexual “practice”.
Today, the United Methodist Book of Discipline reads: “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”
It is from this statement that the United Methodist Church has banned both LGBTQ+ from becoming ordained clergy as well as UMC churches and clergy hosting, blessing, or sanctifying same-sex weddings.
LGBTQ+: This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. The plus indicates that there are other forms of gender and sexual expression that do not fall into these categories. This is a shorthand way to talk about people who have typically been excluded from the full participation of the Church.
Queer – For many, this is a weighty word fraught with problems. Many grew up with the word “queer” as a derisive term to describe effeminate men. It remains a difficult word for many because of the memory of its weaponized usage. For many, especially of younger generations, it has been reclaimed as an umbrella term that describes anyone who exists outside of culturally defined gender normative heterosexuality. The term “Queer Christian” can be a helpful term for those who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and also claim Christ as their Way.
Queer Theology – A subsection of writing, studying, and thinking about theology that does so through a “queer” lens and centralizes the experience of queer people in the story of God’s redemption of the world. There are other helpful subsets of theology that include “Black,” “Womanist,” “Asian,” Feminist,” and many others. MORE
Reconciling Ministries Network: A network of churches who have committed to LGBTQ+ inclusion. From their website: “RMN is committed to intersectional justice across and beyond the United Methodist connection, working for the full participation of all LGBTQ+ people throughout the life and leadership of the Church.” MORE
The United Methodist Book of Discipline: Also known simply as The Discipline, this is the book that is published every four years after General Conference. It contains the constitution, general rules, history, theological foundations, the social principles, and doctrines of the Church. It is the “Law” of the UMC and the binding agreement between clergy, laity, annual conference, boards, commissions, and local congregations. From the the Book of Discipline: “The General Book of Discipline reflects our Wesleyan way of serving Christ through doctrine and disciplined Christian life. We are a worldwide denomination united by doctrine, discipline, and mission through our connectional covenant. The General Book of Discipline expresses that unity.” FREE ONLINE VERSION
Wesley Covenant Association: A reform movement within the United Methodist Church that aligned with the Good News Movement and in many ways gave birth to the Global Methodist Church.