I remember sitting in a meeting with my Pacific Northwest Reconciling Ministries Network leaders last May. It was weeks after General Conference, the UMC’s quadrennial gathering of the top policy-making body of the international United Methodist Church. Advocates for full inclusion were still feeling the heartache from the denomination’s unwillingness to budge.
At 32, I was the youngest person by at least 20 years and the only person of color. The men and women around the table had been doing this important work for years and years, but were clearly ready for rest and the opportunity to pass the mantle to the next group.
In that meeting and even months after, I wondered about the ways that new life could be breathed into this ministry and new advocates added to the network. I wondered how many individuals knew that they were invited to be a part of this movement to create full inclusion of all God’s children in the United Methodist Church. A few weekends ago, I got my answer: Process Coach Training.
This fall, the Reconciling Ministries Network launched the training along with a new organizing model to recruit, develop and equip new leaders at the local level, committing to supporting new communities in the reconciling process and addressing the issue of isolation that can sometimes come with this work. Trainings are scheduled through next year across the country and are lead by regional organizers in collaboration with partner organization, the Institute for Welcoming Resources.
So what exactly is a process coach?
S/he is one who:
- Has made a commitment to helping a congregation(s) go through the Reconciling Process
- Trusts God
- Can build relationships
- Is an active listener
- Can provide a non-anxious presence
- Has knowledge of the reconciling process (membership at a reconciling congregation NOT
- Can provide resources as needed
Simple enough, right? Just to further clarify, they’re not looking for expertise in the following, so don’t feel like not having any formal training in the areas listed below precludes you from participating:
- The LGBT movement
- The Bible
- The United Methodist Book of Discipline
- United Methodist polity
As a young adult in the UMC who juggles working for the denomination, being an advocate for inclusion, discerning ordination and wanting the church to live into the openness and hospitality we say we’re about, I crave opportunities like this that recognize my desire to be given not just the resources and support to do the work I’m so passionate about [even if the UMC continues to disagree], but to be invited to be in partnership and leadership in this grassroots movement.
So how do you get involved?
Start by attend a training event. Visit the Process Coach Training page for information about training dates and registration. If you’re already working with a congregation or group through the reconciling process, or know someone who is, get in touch with one of the regional organizers and let them know about the work that’s happening.
Even if you’re not sure if you have a congregation or group to work with, attending the training provides the opportunity to network with others in the area who are at different points in the process, from inquiring and learning about how to frame conversations around LGBTQ inclusion to those who are members of Reconciling congregations and groups.
With the success of the Called to Witness campaign at General Conference, the growing witness of Reconciling communities and the recent victories for marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and my home state of Washington, the need to continue the work for LGBTQ inclusion is stronger now than ever.
Take a moment to go over the following resources as you prayerfully respond to the ways you and your congregation or group are called to participate in this movement of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform the Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.
> Process Coach Training dates/information
Training dates/locations for RMN Process coach training.
> Welcoming Toolkit
A resource guide on helping your congregation become a community that openly welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Created by the Institute for Welcoming Resources and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce
> To Do Justice
A study on welcoming congregations.
A transgender curriculum for churches and religious institutions.
. . .
Sophia Agtarap serves as Minister of Online Engagement for Rethink Church with United Methodist Communications, and is a candidate for deacon in the United Methodist Church through the Pacific Northwest Conference. She spends lots of time musing and crafting stories of and for the church over a good cup of coffee. She also blogs at wanderingnotlost.com