Click here for the *pdf of the Reconciling Process FAQs, addressing many of the questions raised during and after the Reconciling Info Session (Sept. 22, 2019) and Samoan Circle Panel (Sept. 29, 2019).
At the global General Conference of The United Methodist Church, which ended 26 February 2019, delegates voted 438 to 384 to adopt a "Traditional" plan regarding church policies on homosexuality. Since 1972, the Book of Discipline has stated "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve" in the church (¶304.3) and clergy are prohibited from conducting same gender weddings (¶2702.b). The new legislation added mandatory automatic penalties for UM clergy who would defy the Book of Discipline and created a process (now contested) for congregations wishing to leave The United Methodist Church. In its review, the global church's Judicial Council ruled in April 2019 that the new rules may stand, and went into effect January 2020.
St. Paul's lay leaders and clergy formed leadership teams to help St. Paul's navigate this time of transition. They explored the process and laid out the steps for becoming part of the Reconciling Ministries Network of UM churches that affirm LGBTQ+ persons should St. Paul's wish to pursue RMN membership, communicated with other local UM churches to see how they are addressing the issues posed by the Traditional Plan, and monitored regional and national developments as other possible organizational frameworks, legal challenges, and alternative plans arise.
St. Paul's convened a number of Processing Groups, aka Small Groups for Discernment. Processing Groups for Discernment included members and friends of the church and were loosely organized geographically. Each Group was led by a trained facilitator who guided the discussion.
Afterwards, facilitators reported back to a Steering Committee about areas of disagreement, areas of consensus, and what next steps might be useful, without sharing confidential or personal details. The Church Council, made of St. Paul’s clergy and lay leaders, used the Processing Groups' feedback as they examined what options were “on the table” and what impact each might have on the church’s leadership, finances, and future.
In response to this feedback, St. Paul's also embarked on a new discernment process to clearly answer the question: Should we become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network? This year-long process, begun in October of 2019, culminated in a vote regarding membership in the RMN. Questions about the RMN are addressed in the handout and in the section below. The "Come to the Table of Grace" series offered intentional engagement opportunities to consider what this means for our community and included:
- Reconciling Panel – Members of the Reconciling Steering Committee held an open meeting on Thursday, January 23 at 7:00 PM where representatives from area congregations that have joined the Reconciling Ministries Network discussed their experiences.
- Faithful & Inclusive – This six-unit video study was led by Pastor Pat Allen beginning on February 2. The study, authored by Rev. Rob Fuquay, examines biblical texts regarding homosexuality using a United Methodist understanding of Scripture that honors Scriptural authority, tradition, reason, and experience, known commonly as the “Wesleyan quadrilateral.”
- Refuge - This retreat at West River offered an inclusive faith-building weekend for LGBTQ+ youth. St. Paul's Reconciling Team helped plan and sponsor the event.
- The Better Humans Book Club – The Reconciling Steering Committee and Justice & Compassion Team are co-hosting this book club which is open to everyone. Books have been chosen to challenge, illuminate, and encourage readers to explore issues of race, gender, and public policy.
- Lenten Devotional - The booklet "Come to the Table of Grace" features prayers and reflections written by members and friends of St. Paul's as they consider what it means, in the spirit of Christ, to welcome the outsider.
At the special church conference on October 18, members of St. Paul's voted to adopt a Welcoming Statement (98% in favor) and to join the Reconciling Ministries Network (94% in favor).
Since the first St. Paul's Info Session in March 2019, we have worked to make information clear and accessible. Marge Higgins, lay leader, and Rev. Kate Mackereth Fulton, Associate Pastor, compiled and updated written summaries of the UMC legislation and how it impacts the local church.
Click here for the *pdf version of the Church Council's detailed letter updated 5 July 2019, following Processing Group meetings. This letter was mailed to church members.
Click here for the *pdf document "Discerning a Way Forward," updated 4 June 2019 to include information about recent activities at the Baltimore-Washington Conference's annual convention.
You are welcome to contact Pastor Kate directly (kfulton [at] stpaulsk.org, 301-933-7933 ext 103) if you have additional questions or concerns that are not addressed here.