KATALYST NEWSLETTER OF RECONCILING MINISTRIES NETWORK
VOL. 27 NO. 1
How Do You Grow a United Methodist Church? by Rev. John Oda, RMN Board Chair The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world. This means, in part, that our churches must grow in membership. I recently sat down with two young adults and talked about how they might grow the United Methodist Church. Sarah Zils (left) and Jessie Moore are the Youth Directors at Davis UMC. I began by asking them why they originally came to Davis UMC. Sarah was quick to respond, “We came because the church was reconciling. We literally looked up gay friendly churches on the internet.” Jessie added, “And it was more than just us being gay. I wanted us to be in a congregation with people who held the same values as us. I would not want to worship in a place where people used the bible to condemn homosexuality.” Sarah continued, “As a gay person we face adversity in our society. We know that some people don’t think we are OK, so it was imperative to us that we attended a church where people believed that we were children of God regardless of our sexual orientation. That’s why it’s so important that churches that are reconciling say Out Loud that they are reconciling, so that the public knows.” As teenagers Sarah and Jessie attended a conservative church. They were taught in youth group to Continued on Page 6
Growing to Strike “Incompatibility” in 2012
By Rev. Troy Plummer
If you take a statisticians approach to the reported votes of annual conferences, you can see two things. That the vote totals will be far short of the necessary 2/3rds needed to change the constitution of The United Methodist church, AND that the US annual conferences achieved a simple majority for the All Means All changes. Working for justice can just tear you up. It hurts when justice is delayed when now is already too late for many of our friends. Some of you shared this with your reconciling staff: “It felt like General Conference all over again. We couldn’t even muster a simple majority here.” “We passed All Means All by 2/3rds, but I thought our vote would be much higher.”
“The gay hate language was so hard to hear, it just tore my heart open again.” These calls were supported and enhanced by the experiences of other reconcilers: “I thought I was the only one and 40% voted for change here, I need to find them.” “Fear-mongering videos made me see red; then I realized that our opponents equate all with gay. That made me smile. All does mean gay and everyone else too!” “My straight friends amazed me with love and passion that brought healing I didn’t even know I needed.” Though the All Means All vote did not reach the super-majority needed, we still made progress proclaiming Christ’s Continued on Page 6
Sarah Zils (left) and Jessie Moore Winter 2010 • Katalyst |
Spotlight: Diamond Hill UMC
RECONCILING MINISTRIES NET WORK mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.
By Rev. Vicki Flippin
In the fall of 2009, Diamond Hill UMC decided to officially believe out loud. Diamond Hill is not new to controversy. For example, in 1990, an openly gay pastor was appointed to Diamond Hill, a small, working class community church in Cos Cob, Connecticut. His appointment marked an important moment in the life of the church. Some parishioners left to worship at other nearby United Methodist (UM) churches; however, most stayed. By the end of the pastor’s fourteen-year tenure, every parishioner respected the pastor’s deep spirituality and charitable heart. The presence of this pastor and involvement of other out gay members changed hearts and minds at Diamond Hill. Years later, several factors prompted the church to begin the reconciling process. On November 12, 2008, gay marriage became legal in Connecticut, and a few same-gender couples began calling Diamond Hill about weddings, as the church had become known as a welcoming UM church. When I spoke from the pulpit about my sadness in having to tell hopeful same-gender couples that they were not welcome to be married at Diamond Hill, several parishioners were inspired to ask, “What can we do?” In July 2009, I told the congregation about LGBT rights actions I participated
Rev. Flippin in front of Diamond Hill UMC
in at Annual Conference. Several parishioners were excited to hear about these actions. Although it does not selfidentify as an “activist” congregation, many Diamond Hill parishioners find strength in their difference, often stand up for what is right, and remember sending a few petitions to Annual Conference once upon a time. Our small church struggled to find our mission and vision for the future. When answering the Rethink Church question, “What is this church known for?” several parishioners quipped that the church has been known pejoratively in the community as “the gay church.” The response to this question was, “Can that be turned into a good thing? Why not proudly claim this identity and tell everyone about it? Why not become Continued on Page 7
New Reconciling Communities Congregations Green Street Church of Winston-Salem, NC Journey of Faith UMC of Round Rock, TX Mount Vernon Place UMC of Washington, DC Christ Church, UMC of Troy, NY Diamond Hill UMC of Cos Cob, CT First UMC of Madison, WI Communities: Grace Notes SS Class of Denton, TX Faith & Issues, Living the Question and Spiritual Journey of Delaware, OH | Katalyst • Winter 2010
BOARD OF DIRECTORS Helen Andrew Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger Vincent Cervantes Rev. Daniel Diss Lawrence T. Duncan Rev. Duane A. Ewers Elizabeth A. Fimbres Will J. Green Esther Villarreal Houser Madelyn Marsh Rev. David Meredith Dr. Randall Miller Rev. Holland Morgan Rev. Joshua M. Noblitt Rev. John Oda Elizabeth Okayama Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto Rosario Quiñones Rev. Dr. Bruce Robbins Sally Sparks Rev. Dr. Derrick Spiva Monica L. Swink Joy T. Watts Ralph A. Williams LEGAL COUNSEL Jennifer Soule RMN STAFF Meg Carey Business Manager James Dalton Communication/Technology Coord. Rev. Carl Davis Director of Development Stephanie Harris Admin & Donor Relations Associate Rachel Harvey Associate Executive Director Audrey Krumbach, M.Div. Field Organizer Rev. Troy Plummer Executive Director
Planning to Help Through Planned Giving By Rev. Carl Davis The couple didn’t know what to do. Their summer cottage on 6 acres of Lake Michigan shoreline was a special place to them. It had been a gift from the bride’s father on their wedding day many years ago. As they raised their family the cottage became the location of many mile-stone memories. But now their health prevented them from maintaining the property and their children did not want to inherit it because their careers had taken them far from the mid-west. The couple’s first idea was to sell the property and give the proceeds to their children. But because the property was received as a gift, the tax basis was -0- making the tax liability on the sale proceeds at the maximum. The couple wanted their children to receive the full value of the property, and even more than that, they wanted this special place in their lives to somehow make a special difference in the world. That’s when they learned about another option through planned giving. First, they put the house on sale and found a certified buyer for a price they approved. Secondly, at the closing, they had present an agent of their church. At the closing they deeded the home to their church. In that one transaction the taxes were reduced to -0-. The church representative at the closing then sold the property to the certified buyer, received the check and invested it in a unitrust. The amount of the sale was about 1 million dollars. A unitrust requires the donor to receive income at a rate between 5% - 10%. The couple chose 5%. Now, they receive $50,000 per year from the unitrust. They used that $50,000
Gifts in Memory and Honor of...
to pay the premium on a second to die life insurance policy that will pay $1 million at the death of the second person. The life insurance payment will be divided between their children. The original $1 million invested in the unitrust will grow over time and, at their death, the beneficiary will be their church. This wise act of planned giving more than doubled this couple’s money. Their children will inherit even more money than they would have had the couple sold the home outright because of the tax savings and the church which has been such an important part of this family’s life will be empowered to do even more ministry in the future through their legacy gift of 1 million dollars. This story of good stewardship reminds us of the importance of good planning. Often times it is possible to do more good than we ever imagined, all through thoughtful planning - taking the time to ensure that all of our resources are used according to our values and goals. There are many ways to support the ministry of Reconciling Ministries Network through your own planned giving. If you would like to leave a legacy of justice through your planned gift to RMN please contact Carl Davis at (773) 7365526 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to receive free literature that describes some ways to include RMN in your estate planning. Also, if you have already remembered RMN in your will, please let us know. We would love to know that you value our work and ministry so much.
Deborah Maria Honors Lebanon Sweet Home Reconciling Group
The Foreman Family Honors Janet Jackson
Julie Arms Honors David Braden
Ferris Family Remembers Kjersti Magnuson
Winter 2010 • Katalyst |
How to hold a Believe Out Loud Gathering:
Phone calls and word of mouth invitations are the most powerful because they are the most personal, but we know it can be scary to invite someone to something new. Here are a few hints to help you get started: • Send invitations. Your personal invitations might sound something like, “Will you come to my house at 730pm on Thursday April 15th for a gathering? I am hosting a coffee party with chocolate cake to talk about how The United Methodist Church can be more welcoming to LGBT people.” • Some people will ask you why you are hosting a BOLD gathering. If you have two minutes, tell them your story of self or simply name and describe a beloved LGBT person in your life and mention how much you want them to feel welcome in your church. In addition to your phone calls and word of mouth invitations, Facebook, internet invites (like evite.come), letters, postcards, and announcements in your church newsletter can help invite and remind people to attend. A Plan for your BOLD Gathering: Your BOLD gathering can be very structured with an agenda, or less planned with a general flow but flexibility. A few core elements will help you tell your story, encourage sharing, and invite everyone to become Believe Out Loud Disciples. Begin the BOLD discussion by thanking everyone for attending and sharing why you chose to hold a gathering. Encourage participants to get to know one another by asking a simple question, • Why do you attend the church you attend (if you do)? • When was the first time you understood that inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities is a justice issue? • What would you change about The United Methodist Church? Tell your story of self and invite the participants to share their stories of self. As the group begins to discuss what could be better about the church, invite them to consider taking tangible action for change by becoming a Believe Out Loud Disciple. How To Invite People to Become a BOLD Disciple: A Believe Out Loud Disciple (BOLD) does three things: • Commit to the movement for Full Inclusion by signing a RUM card. (RUM = Reconciling United Methodist) • Share their story and invite two other people to become BOLD disciples • Pledge a regular contribution to RMN Pass out the RUM envelopes and invite each person to respond. For instance: “If you feel as I do about the importance | Katalyst • Winter 2010
OUTL Cambridg e
Welcomin g Team
of inclusion, then I ask you to join me in supporting RMN. Every person who fills out and sends in this envelope speaks up for the strong the call for inclusion and justice in The United Methodist Church. Also, I invite you to join me in sharing financially with RMN. This movement needs everyone who supports full inclusion to participate in a tangible way. When you join me in supporting RMN with $10 per month from your credit card or checking account, you give RMN the resources needed to transform the Church into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love.” Give people about five minutes to fill out and seal their cards. Remember, most envelopes which leave your gathering will be forgotten and not returned. If someone does decide to take their envelope home, encourage them to call you when they send it in, so that you can celebrate their commitment with them. After you have collected the cards, consider singing together or offering a prayer of thanksgiving and hope for the continued growth of The United Methodist Church towards full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
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Goodbye Letter From Tiffany Steinwert To My Reconciling Family, Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ! As many of you know, I have been invited to serve as the sixth Dean of Hendricks Chapel at Syracuse University. It is an unexpected honor and privilege Tiffany Steinwert to be invited to serve in this capacity and an opportunity to utilize my gifts and graces as a pastor, scholar and organizer in new ways. It has been a great privilege and pleasure to serve these past three years as the National Field Director for the Called to Witness campaign. During my tenure I have had the opportunity to meet and work with hundreds of faithful Reconciling United Methodistsâ€Śbuilding relationships, organizing strategically and transforming our beloved Church. All across the connection from the deep south to the Midwest, from coast to coast, I met committed and compassionate individuals who have dedicated their lives and ministries to creating a church where all truly means all.
I only wish you could have the view I have from my travels. As we gathered in all day workshops, met with our General and Annual Conference representatives, and mobilized our expanding constituencies, I glimpsed the Beloved Community coming into being story by story. Friends, our movement is magnificent and it is growing! Now more than ever, people of faith are gathering to share their stories and break the silence that has kept the church locked in a closet of ignorance and exclusion. By believing out loud these disciples across our connection are shattering the myth that the United Methodist Church is content with the status quo of prejudice, discrimination and injustice. I am so very grateful for the time we have had together, for your faithful participation, compassionate commitment and fierce determination. I have been blessed by your stories and forever changed by your witness. While the time has come for me to leave the campaign as your National Field Director, I will continue to be part of the growing, dynamic Reconciling movement and the evolving Called to Witness initiative from my new position at Syracuse University. Together, my friends, we are truly changing the church one story at a time. Paz, Tiffany Winter 2010 â€˘ Katalyst |
“How Do You Grow a United Methodist Church?” Continued from Page 1
“Love the sinner and hate the sin.” As a young person coming out to themselves, it was hard for them hear this message. Sarah confessed, “It shook our confidence and made us ask “Are we OK?” They left that church and did not return to any church for many years. “Churches should come out of the closet about being gay friendly” Jessie said, “They would get a lot more young people attending their churches.” Sarah added, “Young queer people don’t go to church because they associate church as being anti-gay. Even allies don’t believe they can be a Christian and be a gay ally. They think those two terms contradict each other. We would see a huge influx of young people if we as a church made a public statement and said “We accept everyone no matter what your sexual orientation.” According to a recent Barna study, 91% of young non-Christians viewed the church as being anti-gay, and 80% of young Christians described the church as anti-gay. Jessie, who is a student at UC Davis confirmed this, “A lot of kids I talked to in my classes don’t know that Davis UMC is gay friendly. I have to say the word reconciling does not make it very clear. It is almost a cop out. It is as if we are trying to say we are gay friendly without using the word gay.” The United Methodist Church has a long way to go. As an organization RMN is working hard to continue to push for changes within the Church so that young people like Sarah and Jessie feel welcomed in our churches. Rev. John Oda is the pastor at Davis UMC, located in Davis, California. He is the current Chair of the RMN Board. He also serves on the California Nevada Annual Conference Committee on Reconciliation. In 2009 he was honored by City of San Francisco for his ministry to the LGBT community.
| Katalyst • Winter 2010
“Growing to Strike ‘Incompatibility’ in 2012” Continued from Page 1
inclusive love for all and increasing our regional organizing skills. Our movement became stronger because we trained more than 1,000 reconcilers in 35 annual conferences. In each conference where trainings were held and action taken, there was a double digit percentage increase in support of All Means All compared to other amendments. It is good to see powerful support in the US annual conferences even in the face of a strong disinformation campaign. This simple majority of a church wide vote is what we need to strike the “incompatibility clause” in Tampa in 2012. And it doesn’t have to be ratified like a constitutional amendment! Many reconcilers experienced the power of sharing their faith story of inclusion. New leaders are emerging and
new teams are forming where little or none existed (Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Memphis). We celebrate that Rev. Dr. Tiffany Steinwert is the new Dean of the Chapel at Syracuse University and that we already have a team in place to lead us onward. Tiffany writes, “It has been a great privilege and pleasure to serve these past three years as the National Director for the Called to Witness campaign…I only wish you could have the view I have from my travels... Friends, our movement is magnificent and it is growing!” If you don’t know about the Believe Out Loud Disciple (BOLD) training in your area, call our office and ask for Audrey. We’ll get you connected to what is near you or get you the tools to do it yourself!
Meet The RMN St
ach, Carl Davis b m ru K y re d u A is Troy Plummer, Stephanie Harr James Dalton, y, re a C g e M y, Rachel Harve m t - Top to Botto h ig R to ft e L f ove in Order o Staff Listed Ab
Moving Beyond the “Neutral Zone”
by Rachel Harvey With remnants of Mardi Gras and Super Bowl champion Saints’ parades still littering the sidewalks and trees, the RMN board met in New Orleans, Louisiana February 19th and 20th to celebrate and coordinate, dream and digest, share stories and strategize. The board welcomed new MOSAIC representative Maddy Marsh, a student in Denver, Colorado. Maddy brings a fresh perspective, vibrant energy and deep passion for inclusion to the board. In addition to ongoing strategic planning for Convo 2011 and General Conference 2012, the board engaged in a racism workshop lead by Dr. Martha Orphe, director of the LA Conference Office of Multicultural Ministries. Dr. Orphe invited the board to name their fears before speaking and hearing each other’s stories. Some fears members brought to the table were: feelings of being overwhelmed, emotional and embarrassed, that hidden racism would be made public, empathy would be absent from our conversation, we would stay stuck in the old white/black conversation without the complexity of our full racial/ethnic identities and that we would be too nice to address white privilege and racism in our movement. Without allowing their fears to paralyze the group, the
board spoke honesty and openly about places along their journey where they have witnessed racism from its many sides. As the group told and heard their emerging story of us, they began a process to envision a movement where we speak and hear all stories while working for a church where we reconcile within and beyond our neutral zones. In many parts of New Orleans, the median is referred to as “the neutral zone”. Historically it occupied the space between American and French neighborhoods; many older residents remember not being allowed to cross past its borders. As United Methodists, we live, love and worship through the effects of neutral zones like the historically segregated Central Jurisdiction and special Sundays. Whether the church maintains racial divides via structure or the establishment of one Sunday to celebrate diversity – lines are drawn to maintain an air of comfort and sustain systems of privilege. As Christians we are called to move beyond our neutral zones and as Reconciling United Methodists we know that the journey must be traveled with peace and justice. The board’s work will continue as they aspire to fulfill our baptismal covenant to resist oppression in whatever form it presents itself.
1 1) RMN Board in New Orleans, 2) Anti-Racisim Training with Dr. Martha Orphe, 3) New board member Maddy Marsh “Diamond Hill” Continued from Page 2
officially affiliated with the movement for change in the church? Let’s get on the list!” Diamond Hill is not populated by “progressives” or “activists”- just regular people who feel that any kind of discrimination has no place in the church. Two lay members, Randy Dinter and Wayne Hemstead, took the lead in the reconciling process by writing a letter to the congregation while learning about discrimination in church policy. The pastors held a Bible study, which focused discussions on every word of discriminatory language in
the Book of Discipline. After only a few months, Diamond Hill’s church council unanimously voted to add a sentence to the mission statement to vocalize disagreement with the UMC’s stance on LGBT issues. Many at the church were surprised that no one resisted the change. In addition, most of the community feedback has been very positive. The Greenwich Time ran a frontpage story on Diamond Hill’s stance, and the editor wrote a Sunday editorial praising the church. Thanks be to God that attitudes are changing in this little corner of Connecticut! Winter 2010 • Katalyst |
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