- by Greg Gray -
As I have talked with many churches around my conference, I have heard the same statement from several, “We are already welcoming. We don’t need to identify as Reconciling.” Some new church plants have even said, “We were founded as a liberal church, welcoming to everyone. Identifying as Reconciling would push people away from the table of conversation where everyone is welcome.” The people who have made these statements are friends, and in most cases are allies when it comes to voting LGBT interests in The United Methodist Church.
I am reminded of the Scripture, Matthew 10:12-14, "As you enter the house, greet it. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” I believe this image of finding a house in which to stay also works for finding a “house of God” in which to join. I want to be welcomed, and if I am not I will shake the dust from my feet and move on.
The question now becomes is this level of welcome enough for the members of the LGBT community? I am willing to argue that it is not! When I go on vacation one of the first things I do is look at the RMN website to see if there is a Reconciling church in the area. I do this because I know that I will not only be welcomed at a Reconciling church, but I will also be accepted fully for who I am as a whole, complete, loved child of God. For members of the LGBT community who have been at best shamed or worse kicked out of churches, told they are sinful, wrong, broken, going to hell, or need to be changed, just saying you are welcome to come to our church is not enough. I don’t want to know that I can come to a church and be welcomed at worship. I want to know that I can come to a church and be welcomed with my partner, be able to join as a couple, and feel a complete part of the body of Christ as we join together at the table of Communion.
So, where do we go from here? We continue to tell our personal stories. We ask our friends in these liberal, welcoming churches to affirm what they already practice by becoming a Reconciling congregation. We let those people, who are afraid if they become reconciling it will push people away from the table of conversation, know that by affirming that your church is reconciling means that everyone is welcome fully into all conversations in the life of the church. We have come so far on the road to equality in the life of the church, and I am encouraged everyday by news of churches, Sunday School classes, and small groups that are in conversation regarding becoming reconciling; however, there is still much work to do.
There is a difference between a welcoming church and a Reconciling church. Let people know your story. Keep reaching out, keep sharing, keep showing love to all, and we will rejoice together as we add numbers to our fellowship!
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Greg Gray was born into Union Chapel UMC on a small 2-point circuit, is now a member of Monroe First UMC, and serves as the Director of Music at Clarkston UMC. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 2008 with an AB in Speech Communication and in 2011 with an AB in Music (Voice), and is studying to obtain a Master of Divinity at Candler School of Theology. He also enjoys working for the United Methodist Church as the Athens-Elberton District Director of Lay Servant Ministries and the North Georgia Conference vice-chair of Lay Revitalization Ministry.