- by Rev. Jeremy Smith -
For Churches that have been part of the Reconciling Ministries Network for a long time, there can be a growing sense of “what next?” or “how can we be even MORE Reconciling?”
My local church is First United Methodist Church in downtown Portland, Oregon. We became part of the Reconciling Congregations Program on March 16th, 1993, and adopted a one-page welcoming statement as well. Per our records, we believe we were one of the first 75 Reconciling congregations.
Like a partnered couple that years later seeks to reaffirm their wedding or partnering vows, our Congregation recited the following liturgy as part of a celebration of that 20 year commitment. This liturgy was written collaboratively by the clergy and the local Reconciling committee. The “quoted sections” are direct quotes from the statement we made 20 years ago along with responses showing how that vow has grown.
We share it today in hopes that other congregations may consider doing something similar to connect past prophetic actions with today’s realities.
A Reaffirmation of Reconciling Ministries
Twenty years ago, a vote was taken here at a Church Conference. Two hundred people attended, and 88% voted “yes!” to becoming a Reconciling Congregation, saying: “All persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are invited to worship and serve God at First United Methodist Church of Portland, by full and open participation in every aspect of our church’s life.”
When we said that, “We believe God is challenging the Christian community to accept lesbians and gay men as sisters, brothers and coworkers in the house of faith ...”
We had no idea how we would expand to include all persons beyond categories of orientation. But we do include all people - we affirm that and we celebrate it!
When we said, “Reconciliation includes healing, peace-making, overcoming separation, unity in the midst of diversity ...”