Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent and The Holocaust

This article is part of a series of devotions in an online group Advent project.

Female prisoners at forced labor digging trenches at the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. This photograph is from the SS-Propaganda-Album des Frauen-KZ-Ravensbrueck 1940-1941. USHMM (18344), courtesy of Lydia Chagoll.

Advent and The Holocaust don’t normally get put together. However, I figured writing on the eve of the winter solstice (aka the longest night) and the Mayan apocalypse (aka the end of the world), Holocaust imagery might just be appropriate.

Advent and The Holocaust overlap more that you first might think. The story of Jews waiting, longing, hoping, traveling, being housed in deplorable conditions. Will a savior come? It doesn’t seem so as Herod and Hitler massacre innocent children. Murder. Hopelessness. Hate. Fear. A far cry from the peace, hope, love, and joy candles we light on our advent wreath in worship.

Every generation thinks they have it worse than the one before, but the unrest the Christ was born into was a world headed for a spiritual cliff just as much, if not more, than our world today. Those in power are neglecting and causing harm, and so John the Baptist holds a press conference to tell it like it is: 

(From Luke 3) John said to the crowds… …bear fruits worthy of repentance… …Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise. Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

As the people were filled with expectation… …John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

When we read this text, and think about the massacre last week or the one long ago in Germany, it seems as though John got it all wrong. He said the bad fruit would be cut down and thrown into the fire, not innocent children. Where in the hell is God in all of this? Why is evil still winning?

The following prayer was found at Ravensbruck, a Holocaust death camp where 92,000 women and children died.  It was scrawled on a piece of paper near a dead girl. (It is also the text used in a single by Jennifer Knapp for the Martyr Project.)

Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will also those of ill will.  But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us; remember the fruits we have brought, thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgment, let all the fruits we have borne be their forgiveness.

Just like Advent again, in the midst of all these questions and feelings of abandonment by God, a child shall lead us. This child’s prayer are Word made flesh: In our suffering, remember all of your children, even those who turn on the gas chamber or trigger a semi automatic rifle. May the fruits we have borne in this suffering—may they be their forgiveness. Sounds a lot like something Jesus would say. Fruit borne in suffering for the forgiveness of sins. Wine poured out for the forgiveness of all. The Christ becoming flesh in the words of that little Jewish girl.

Where the hell is God in all this evil? God is right there in the thick of hell; love conquering death. John tells us, God’s answer to unimaginable evil is Immanuel—God with us. God’s plan is incarnation—taking on flesh and suffering. And fiery furnaces, intended as evil, are transformed into Baptism by fire—God claiming all as God’s children and calling us to bear fruit… that is how the evil in this world is destroyed.  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Advent with John and Oscar

11th day of Advent: John and Oscar

Luke 3:1-6
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

In the third year of the presidency of Jimmy Carter, when generals were ruling over El Salvador, and rebels (armed by the US) were planning a coup, and priests who stood with the poor were called terrorists and communists, the word of God came to Bishop Oscar Romero in the wilderness of a civil war.

Both Oscar and John the Baptist spoke an unpopular truth that upset those in power.  In the scripture above, Luke didn’t just throw in all those hard to pronounce names to try and stump the scripture reader. He was framing the world into which this prophet John was preparing the way. In the midst of these oppressive leaders, John was not only speaking words about the change he knew was coming, but he being those words made flesh. John’s weapon of choice was the waters of Baptism; Romero used the bread and the cup.

Romero went into the town square, proclaiming that God was present with the poor, calling on the government and church to repent, and he served the bread and cup as the ultimate protest against the oppression of the poor. Romero knew that the body and blood, when embodied by the people, empowered them to make paths straight, fill valleys, lower mountains and hills, and smooth over rough places… how? Romero believed that God was present in the bread and cup, was present in the poor themselves, and that all flesh would see the salvation of God.

Said another way, Romero framed the plight of a people being oppressed with the perspective of a Christ who suffered and died and defeated death. Romero could confidently serve the bread and cup in defiance of those standing around them with guns pointed because he knew how the story ends: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

Do not be confused… this is not a “it doesn’t matter what happens here on earth because everything will be okay in heaven” theology. This is the theology or life perspective of “I know how this is all going to end—love defeats death—so I am going to live then ending now. I am not only going to speak words about the change I know is coming, but I am going to be those words made flesh.

In the words of Oscar Romero:

Advent should admonish us to discover in each brother or sister that we greet, in each friend whose hand we shake, in each beggar who asks for bread, in each worker who wants to use the right to join a union, in each peasant who looks for work in the coffee groves, the face of Christ. Then it would not be possible to rob them, to cheat them, to deny them their rights. This is what Advent is: Christ living among us.

Again, don’t be confused… this is not a history lesson about events that happened over 30 years ago. This is as true today as it was then. Advent is not all love, peace, joy, and candles on Christmas Eve.  Advent is a chance again to prepare for the persecution that is coming when we welcome this revolutionary, table turning, bread and cup serving Christ child into our lives again.

There is no real peace without justice. Oscar and John stood up to corrupt governments and churches that preached “peace” that was dependent on the oppression of the poor and the silence of mass graves. “Peace” was maintained by the US assisted Salvadorian government through kidnapping, torturing, and killing of those who preached about what real peace looked like.

In Romero’s words:

It is important to note why [the Church] has been persecuted. Not any and every priest has been persecuted, not any and every institution has been attacked. That part of the church has been attacked and persecuted that put itself on the side of the people and went to the people's defense. Here again we find the same key to understanding the persecution of the church: the poor.

Sounds a lot like today. We hear propaganda like “freedom isn’t free”, while those who speak about what real freedom and peace look like are condemned as troublemakers and sometimes terrorists. Many of our churches that are “thriving” are maintaining their growth on the backs of the poor—proclaiming “peace” where there is no justice, while those who stand with the poor are sacrificed by those same churches in order to maintain that “peace”.

But the hope we find in this Advent time of waiting and preparing can be found in the very words made flesh by John and Oscar:

John the Baptist quoting Isaiah:
The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’

Bishop Oscar Romero blessing the bread and cup:
We receive here the body of the Lord who offered himself for the redemption of the world. May his body and blood given for us nourish us in such a way that we, too, may give our body and blood as Christ did, so we may bring justice and peace to our people.

Immediately after speaking these words, Romero was shot dead by the government; John the Baptist was eventually beheaded by the government. They were both guilty of speaking truth to those in power, telling the oppressed something the powerful didn’t want them to hear:

Freedom is free.
Real peace is only possible with justice.
Love conquers death.

And this was all made flesh by a little baby whose blood would be the seed of freedom.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Back to the Future: Advent day 3

(Originally published in:

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”  ~Jeremiah 33:14-16
Days are surely coming. Branch to spring up. Execute justice. Righteousness in the land. Judah will be saved. Jerusalem will live in safety.
Cool. So, what do you want me to do, God? It sounds like from this short passage, that God’s got things covered… so what are we supposed to do again? Live.
That’s all. Just live. But live as one who believes the story is going to end this way.
In the great theological work, Back to the Future, Michael J Fox’s character goes back in time only to discover that he has disrupted the time space continuum by making his mother fall in love with him. He not only knows how the story is supposed to end, his very existence is dependent upon his parents falling in love at the dance and eventually conceiving him. As he works to get them together, he looks at a clue from the future to see if he is on track: a picture of his family. When it looks like his dad isn’t going to get his girl, Marty and his sister begin to disappear, but when they fall in love, the family picture comes back into focus.
Marty didn’t work to get his dad together with his mom because they were a clear match. The girl was way out of this guy’s league. No one would have given McFly a chance with her. No one except Marty… Marty knew that is how the story ended. And when you know how the story ends, you can live in such a way and wait for certain things that might seem crazy to others.
When I bartended I often would place bets on games that were going on. I never lost. Not once. What was my secret? I only bet on games that were replays.
When you know the ending, making choices others call risky, are in reality, a safe bet. Stanley Hauerwas (imagine Doc Brown as a theologian) says it this way:
Christians are called to nonviolence not because we believe nonviolence is a strategy to rid the world of war…. But in a world of war, as faithful followers of Christ, we cannot imagine being anything other than being non-violent. And that will make the world possibly more violent; because the world does not want the “order” it calls “peace” exposed as the violence it so oftentimes is. Learning how to wait as a people of nonviolence in a world of war… you’ll know what Advent is. Advent is patience. It’s how God has made us a people of promise in a world of impatience. Christ has made that possible: for us to live patiently in a world of impatience. ~Stanley Hauerwas
Jeremiah is telling us how it is all going to end so that we can live differently. Because we know it will all end in peace, not only do we not have to live in war, we don’t even have to live into the “reality” that the world sells as “peace”.
That means when the Church tells us that it is “normal” and “the natural order” and “peaceful” for us to have cheap food at the expense of abused, enslaved immigrants–because we know how the story ends, and because we can live into that ending right now, when we hear lies like “dehumanizing farmworkers is okay”, we can call bullshit!
That means when the Church tells us that it is “normal” and “the natural order” and “peaceful” for us to exclude certain people from our community, leadership, wedding aisles, or ordination stoles because they were created by God to love the same-sex–because we know how the story ends, and because we can live into that ending right now, when we hear lies like “it’s not time yet”, we can call bullshit!
When we do that, it will very possibly make things worse… because the Church does not want the “order” it calls “peace” exposed as the violence it so oftentimes is.
Thank God for that Christ child, cross and resurrection. Days are surely coming. Branch to spring up. Execute justice. Righteousness in the land. Judah will be saved. Jerusalem will live in safety.
And we can live patiently in a world of impatience. Patience isn’t sitting back and doing nothing. Patience is actively being a peacemaker in a warring world because you know how it’s all going to end.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is there any hope for Thanksgiving? Maybe.

originally published on RMNBlog

Fair warning… the last time I shared my thoughts on Thanksgiving eve I was criticized for not sticking to the script of the Pilgrims and Indians having a dinner party and everything ending happily ever after. So, if you want to only focus on that narrative, you should probably stop reading and just click here.
The problem with the myth of Thanksgiving is that it forms us as people who whitewash the story we came from, and thus, who we are today and the decisions we make tomorrow. I’m not suggesting that because our country was founded on the blood of native people we should wallow in guilt, but I do believe we can do better than repeating a lie. It is even worse when we insert God into the redacted narrative, giving thanks for that first Thanksgiving and painting a picture of those innocent Christian travelers spreading the Gospel of love and full inclusion by their sharing a meal with the those nice Indians.

I don’t say all of this to be politically correct. The entire notion of being p.c. is based on the flawed idea that our political selves are somehow separate from who we are. As the story goes, our lives are split into political, spiritual, social, and other selves. Therefore, what we say in one realm doesn’t really have much say over who we really are. That story, like Thanksgiving, is also not true. When I was a little kid and my grandfather said the “n word", it was explained to me that he grew up in a different time when people talked different. Or, more recently, when a former coworker frequently made generalizations about people walking across our church’s property based on the color of their skin, it was explained to me that he was just concerned about safety. And when the myth of Thanksgiving is retold to my 3 year old son at his school and he comes home with paper feathers on his head and doing an Indian war chant by moving his hand to and from his mouth, it is explained to me that they’re just children.

It isn’t about being politically correct. It is about truth telling. Because telling the truth about where we’ve been shapes who we are today and the decisions we make tomorrow. Last month my alma mater, The University of Florida, was weighed down in a scandal that some dismissed as politically-correct-over-sensitivity. A fraternity threw a “rappers and rock stars” party in which the participants painted their faces black and dressed in baggy clothes. Pictures were posted. People were outraged. On the surface, defenders argued, black-face is ok because they were just joking and it’s on tv, so people who are upset just need to get over it. It was only after a community forum and presentations from different professors on the history of black-face did more understand the hurt that can be inflicted when we ignore the origins of a practice. Black-face is politically, spiritually, and socially incorrect wrong because it has been used historically to politically, spiritually, and socially dehumanize.

There are examples of lies painted all around us—false stories that are put in front of us in hopes of brainwashing us to not see certain parts of the true world around us. Like a ritzy resort in a third-world country, usually these stories have poverty hiding just on the other side of the wall. This time of year especially, stores do all they can to offer the lowest prices and at the same time, hide the poverty that is inflicted to achieve those low, low prices. That is why some Wal-Mart employees have said they are planning to strike on Black Friday. They are tired of hiding behind the resort wall… they want us to see them. Where I’m from in the Southeast, a grocery giant Publix is known for its heartwarming Thanksgiving commercials that are like a tapestry that tells the Norman Rockwell-esque story of the perfect Thanksgiving. They, like other grocery stores, do everything they can in hopes you won’t think about were your food came from—to pay no attention to the exploited farmworkers behind the curtain. (The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is working to change this practice. See their video: "A Tale of Two Thanksgivings" and sign their petition.)

As hard as you try…

You can’t separate practices from their shameful history.

You can’t separate political correctness from what is just plain correct.

You can’t separate the food you buy from the hands that picked it.

And you can’t separate the harm done in the past from a day of thanks today.

You can’t separate these things because what we say and what we do need to match. It’s kind of like a church that has a slogan of openness, but yet in practice, still holds on to its closed hearts, minds, and doors. And when you are part of a denomination, like The United Methodist Church, whose true story is one of discrimination and harm toward women, people of color, and LGBTQ persons, it’s not enough to sugarcoat the past and say everything is ok because you have some Black female clergy and gay people coming to church. When you do that, you continue as a willing participant in the harmful practices of the past—sort of like if you were to paint your face to make fun of another race or pass down the myth of Thanksgiving. We fool ourselves to think that if we just ignore the narrative, the harm and hurt will just go away, when in reality, it lingers and festers and causes us to repeat history.

So where does that leave us on this Thanksgiving? Ironically, I think we get a hint in our Eucharist liturgy titled “The Great Thanksgiving”. It is the practice much like Thanksgiving. We are called to remember that first meal where all were invited to share—even Judas. (Some of us eat together with people we don’t very much care for.) We are called to give thanks, because it is right to give our thanks and praise. But unlike the Thanksgiving myth, Holy Communion’s story tells us who we really are—that God formed us in God’s image and breathed into us the breath of life.  It also tells a story, but instead of distorting our past, it tells us who we really are. It doesn’t say everything is ok because of
Jesus, but it painstakingly tells the truth about how we turned away from God’s love, how ours is a story of oppressing and thus being oppressed, and how we are in need of forgiveness of others and of God. It tells the true story about the fullness of who we have been, who we are, and who we are becoming. It tells a true story about the fullness of Jesus Christ—who has died, is risen, and will come again. And it is a meal that believes that by eating and drinking these symbols of God breaking and pouring God’s self out for us, we are joined with God in breaking and pouring ourselves out for others.

And yeah, we don’t live out this Eucharistic meal when we leave the table like we should… our tables aren’t truly open to all when we are trained in the art of historical fabrication. But, I believe it is easier to redeem practices when at least the story you start with is true and good. It’s much more difficult to redeem a holiday like Thanksgiving when we can’t even be honest about its history. I believe the place to start is truth telling. Only then will we stop ignoring the narrative and instead, work to transform it into something life (and thanks) giving.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Bishop Coyner, Please Don't Speak for Martin Luther King Jr.


United Methodists in the Western Jurisdiction adopted a “Statementof Gospel Obedience” that says the denomination is in error in its stance that the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The jurisdiction’s statement also urged United Methodists to operate as if that stance “does not exist, creating a church where all people are truly welcome.”

Bishop Coyner's Statement

Today, Indiana Area Bishop Coyner published his criticisms of the Western Jurisdiction in his e-pistle.

Among other objectionable points in Bishop Coyner's statement was the unbelievable belief that the Western Jurisdiction's call for Gospel Obedience (in direct opposition to the UMC's current stance) is a “very poor substitute for the honorable practice of civil disobedience as expressed clearly by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

My Response

Bishop Coyner, in all due respect to your episcopal office, but are we speaking about the same MLK Jr. who argues that civil disobedience is justified not only to deal with an unjust law, but that "everyone has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws."

When you said poor substitute, are you sure you didn't really mean to say faithful practice

When you read MLK's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail", where do you identify in the story? There are basically two options... 

  • The preacher in jail because he was calling for people of faith and moral conviction to Biblical obedience to love one another.
 - or -
  • The White, moderate clergymen (one of which was a Methodist Bishop) who were asking MLK Jr. to stop rocking the boat.

Bishop Coyner, since you brought up Rev. MLK Jr. in your e-pistle, and basically spoke for him, where do you fall in this story?

Bishop, I've read Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 
I've been formed by the words of Martin Luther King Jr. 
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a hero of mine.
Bishop, please don't speak for Martin Luther King Jr.


Rev. Andy Oliver

PS. Here are a group of youth from AlumRock UMC that seem to get MLK Jr's writing. You can sign their online petition to The Council of Bishops in support of Bishop Talbert's message, which, as they point out, is a faithful practice of MLK Jr's call to civil disobedience.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

LGBTQ and Christian: Churches Really Embodying Radical Hospitality

For those who missed the news, I moved to Chicago to take a job in communications and technology with Reconciling Ministries Network, a non-profit mobilizing United Methodists to create full inclusion of all God’s children regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Many of you have asked what I do. Basically I get to walk with people in their full range of emotions, helping them to tell their story of what it means to be a Christ follower who happens to also be LGBTQ or an ally. I get to celebrate with churches and communities that have made courageous statements of inclusion and cry with those individuals and groups who are being oppressed by other churches and society. I love my job.

One of the best parts of my jobs is telling the story of new churches or communities who have affirmed their commitment to full inclusion by becoming a Reconciling Community. I share the stories I helped tell this week to show that they are all coming from different places... both blue and red states. For some it was an easy vote, for others it was years of hard conversations. Reading these statements makes me think that there isn't a United Methodist congregation in Florida or elsewhere that couldn't make a similar statement. (Florida only has 3 Reconciling Congregations.) If you are in a church that isn't even willing to have the Reconciling conversation, you can always join RMN as a Sunday School or committee and by doing so, lead your church in what it really means to embody radical hospitality.

More regular articles to follow... I still don't have any furniture.

I challenge you to read these statements of welcome and inclusion below and tell me why your church shouldn't join the Reconciling Movement:

Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church (New Orleans, Louisiana)
For Rev. Carol Winn Crawford and her church, the process of becoming a Reconciling Congregation was a natural culmination. “After years of practicing radical hospitality without regard to gender identity or sexual orientation, a growing sensitivity to the plight of persons who have been scorned and isolated by the faith community, an ever-increasing love for LGBT individuals, couples, and families who are a precious part of our community, and the desire to make our solidarity with them public” becoming Reconciling was the next step. While their vote was unanimous, not everyone in the congregation is on board yet, but together they are committed to a ministry of patience, kindness, and understanding.

We are a community of faith and love representing, celebrating, and embracing all God’s children as persons of sacred worth, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, culture, tradition, sexual orientation, gender identity, personal and family history, or station in life. In the full expression of the radically transforming and all-inclusive love of God as revealed through Jesus Christ, all are welcome!

Social Concerns Committee of Nashville United Methodist Church (Nashville, Indiana)
Many find themselves in a church that is not ready to become a Reconciling Congregation. That was the case at NUMC, so Gloria Berryman and a committee in her church have taken leadership, writing their own statement and facilitating inclusivity seminars and movie nights.

We are called to share God’s love as we minister with and to all persons in the community and beyond. Our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, economic condition, or physical or mental ability. We seek to bridge the division in the church on this matter by fostering opportunities for dialogue through education, ministry, advocacy, and witness.

Penns Park United Methodist Church (Penns Park, Pennsylvania)
In 2004, when PPUMC found themselves in need of a fresh vision after 200 years of ministry, they decided to be intentional about becoming an open and affirming church. As for many churches, that journey has not been an easy one—Rev. Ginny Mills and her congregation have been the target of many of the same acts of discrimination and vitriol that many LGBT person face every day. After some very difficult years, the church has begun to grow again. Worshippers are an equal split of LGBT and allies, and they are very present outside the walls of the church, making their presence known in the local pride parade.

We are welcoming and affirming, believing all people are precious children of God, regardless of color, sexual orientation, or status. We are building an active ministry that extends beyond the walls of the church building. We are an old church moving in a new direction that shows God's love, care, and concern for the surrounding community. Though our congregation was established in 1805, we are not bound by stiff traditions; rather, we constantly seek new ways to apply the unchanging Gospel to a rapidly changing world.

Beverley Hills United Methodist Church (Alexandria, Virginia)
Rev. Sara Manner and Lay Leader Karen Beasley are proud to announce their joining with other churches across the country to “live out the teachings of Jesus Christ, who welcomed all people to his love, care, and grace.” On July 1st they voted to become a Reconciling Congregation!

We welcome all people. By this we mean that people of any race, ethnicity, national origin, age, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, physical or mental ability, economic status, or educational background are welcome. We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and all are worthy of God's love and grace. We fully include all people in the life and ministry of Beverley Hills Church. We recognize that there are differences among us, but believe we can love each other and work together even though we may not think alike. To all who have known the pain of exclusion or discrimination in the church or in society we proclaim this statement of welcome. We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding and mutual respect as we seek to follow in the way of Jesus Christ.

First United Methodist Church (Watsonville, California)
160 years after her birth, FUMC of Watsonville voted as a church to be recognized as a Reconciling Congregation. Rev. Robin Mathews-Johnson shared their welcome statement which was based on a statement written by Capitol Hill UMC:

We are called to the ministry of reconciliation. We embrace as a gift the diversity of our neighborhood and the world. We celebrate our human family’s diversity of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, age, faith history, economic status, marital status, physical and mental ability, and education. We affirm that all people are created in the image of God and as beloved children of God, all are worthy of God’s love and grace. We welcome the full inclusion of all people in the life and ministries as we journey toward reconciliation through Christ. We recognize that there are differences among us, but believe that we can love alike even though we may not think alike. We proclaim this statement of welcome to all who have known the pain of exclusion or discrimination in the church and society. We invite all people to join us in our faith journey toward greater love, understanding, and mutual respect.

Broadway United Methodist Church (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Many inclusive churches wonder why it is important to join an organization and become a Reconciling Congregation. After witnessing continued discrimination against the LGBT community, BUMC voted to become one after 20 years of discussion. “We have come to realize that our voice against these injustices must be heard across the country,” said Board Chair Marc McAleavey. In addition to their statement of welcome, the church marches in the Pride Parade and hosts different LGBT arts and support groups.

We believe that the Spirit of God is alive in all people. We welcome persons of all age race, ethnicity, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We seek to acknowledge and honor this Spirit in all people by having conversations and listening for opportunities to connect and invest in the passions, interests, and gifts they have to share with the world.

Dunean United Methodist Church (Greenville, South Carolina)
When DUMC was continually experiencing difficulties with visitors who said they struggled with the church’s inclusive spirit (over one-third of the congregation identifies as LGBT), the congregation decided to adopt a new mission statement and become a Reconciling Congregation. “We wanted the community to know that we are inclusive, loving and accepting of all persons,” said Rev. Andria Cantrell, “so that visitors will know immediately who we are as a church.”

We are called by God to embrace all people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, family or socioeconomic status, physical or mental ability, or faith history. All persons are of sacred worth and dignity. Together, we are guided by our Lord's grace to worship, study, pray, and fellowship in servant ministry to the world by the power of God's Holy Spirit.

The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church
The WJ Conference adopted a resolution in 2008 and just recently affirmed their identity as a Reconciling Jurisdiction as an act of biblical obedience. Here is an excerpt from the resolution:

We stand with our LGBT brothers and sisters, both lay and clergy, who have been shunned by the UMC in polity and in deed. We stand with our leaders who must hide an essential part of who they are in order to serve the church. We stand with hope, not for the future, but for our ministry in this time, in our places where people long to be welcomed and included in our communities of faith, long to be recognized in their relationships, and long to be a part of the church at large. We name and claim our ministries as welcoming and reconciling throughout the jurisdiction. We open our doors to all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, we open our hearts to those who have been shunned, we open our minds to radical obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even when at odds with The Book of Discipline, in order to further the work of God's justice and the creation of the beloved community. As a Welcoming and Reconciling Jurisdiction we will take steps of inclusion in the sacred trust of marriage, ordination, and leadership roles for all. Knowing that we are not all alike, but that we do intend to love alike, we recognize that this statement is made of courage, not agreement; this statement is made on faith, not law; and this action is taken to further the witness of The UMC, not to disregard its importance.