Reconciling Congregation Board Celebrates Success Of Their Defeat With "Broken Chalice" Ceremony
Reconciling Congregation Board Meets Following UMC-GC Expresses Disappointment in Legislative Actions of the Conference and Reviews 10 Days of Successful Plans Completed and Following the Holy Spirit
"Clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us - written not with ink, but, by the Spirit of the Living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." --2nd Corinthians 3:3
CLEVELAND, OH (RCP) -- Planning that began almost two years ago in Pawling, NY, on the campaign "Wide is God's Welcome: Extend the Table" culminated in a colorful range of worship, witness, education, legislative advocacy and actions before and during the UMC General Conference 2000 in Cleveland, Ohio. At the May 13 and 14, Board Meeting in Cleveland a long list of blessings were named - both individuals and activities - that made the witness of the previous ten days possible.
Dr. Gayle Felton, Chair of the RC Board named the positive experiences of enacting a ministry of welcoming, "Although far from accomplishing all that we worked and prayed for, during these two weeks we were blessed by rich experiences of God's grace. We glimpsed the hope of 'beloved community' as we were bonded by our common labor. We were granted unexpected affirmation, when fearful brothers and sisters whispered words of support which they dared not speak aloud. We were invigorated by the power of our common witness, supported and shared by some delegates, bishops, and many others." She also named the Board's disappointment, "The General Conference, in both the Faith and Order Legislative Committee and the plenary sessions, heard the stories of faithful gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. The conference witnessed courageous non-violent demonstrations and direct actions which proclaimed the demand for justice and inclusion. Still, more than sixty percent of the delegates closed their minds and hardened their hearts."
Just the numbers indicate the success of plans for the RC efforts: 4000 letters written prior to GC (an additional 250 written while at GC); 16,500 Reconciling UM's enrolled; nearly 600 volunteers registered at GC; 200+ UM persons of color as co-signers of new statement; 125+ parents who registers as part of the Parent's Network; more than 200 UM-related stoles were collected; 900+ in the crowd at Saturday Rally; 800+ gathered at Sunday Worship, 2000 folks estimated to have joined in the 10 noon-time communion; 220 persons arrested as part of two direct actions of civil disobedience.
Persons of Color -- A groundbreaking statement by UM Persons of Color for an Inclusive Church, "The Storehouses of God's Justice Do Not Run Low", signed by 200 persons of color. Significant conversation with Hispanic leaders during the 2nd week
Shower of Stoles Display -- More than 200 UM-related stoles were collected since the RC Convocation in Denton, Tx (August 19990. The stoles were used in rally, displayed, and as a "cloud of witnesses" in the Convention Center - some actually worn by delegates in solidarity -- during votes related to heterosexism. Witness surrounding the delegates. A beautiful Dedicated in the worship at 1st UMC on Sunday the 8th.
Letter Writing of Personal Stories - AMAR (organized by IATC) entered the General Conference with over 4000 personal letters written directly to delegates. An additional 250 which were written to delegates while at General Conference.
Multi-Cultural Communion Services -- Each day at 12:30 a corner of lawn in front of Convention Center was claimed as sacred space for sharing the body of Christ. What began at a witness clearly became a ministry. Celebrants for those nine lunch-break services were: The Rev. Minerva G. Carcano, The Rev. Monica Corsaro, Bishop Judith Craig, Rev. Susan Henry Crowe, Bishop William W. Dew, Jr., The Rev. Dr. Gayle Felton, Bishop Elias Galv▀n, The Rev. Bob Hoshibata Bishop, Bishop Alfred Johnson, The Rev. Sharon Moe, Bishop Susan Morrison, Bishop A. Frederick Mutti, and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson.
Non-Violent Actions which ended in Arrests -- In harsh and repeated votes the delegates re-affirmed un-welcoming statements in the UM Discipline. Reconciling United Methodists who kept faith with the General Conferences' legislative process came out of the second week feeling ill-used. Two separate actions of non-violent civil disobedience, saw a total of 220 persons were arrested by Cleveland police. On Wednesday, May 10, an action organized by Soulforce, under the direction of Mel White, led to 191 persons being arrested as they blocked the exit to the Convention Center with a challenge of "No Exit - Without Justice."
On Thursday morning, May 11, a separate action organized by "Friends of the AMAR Coalition" entered the Convention floor in protest of voting that retained "incompatible" language in the UMC Discipline. Randy Miller, as one of the spokespersons for the action addressed delegates, "You have broken your covenant with us, the fabric of the church is come unwoven." A series of requests, votes and interactions led to the AMAR witnesses moving onto the Bishops' dais. Bishop Solomon requested the witness participants to clear the area. As singing of "We Shall Overcome" continued, 27 AMAR witnesses and two Bishops (Susan Morrison and Joseph Sprague) were arrested. All those who were detained by the police did so in witness to the need for change of UM policy and practice toward LGBT persons .
Marilyn Alexander expressed the feelings of many Reconciling UM's, "It has become increasing clear that the system has been seized by those whose hearts are hardened against us. We kept faith with the system, trusted the process - but, business as usual could not continue - the system has failed us and failed the larger church."
Members of the RC Board and staff who were arrested: Chip Aldridge, Bill Bouton, Sid Hall, Jeanne Audrey Powers, Vickie Woods, Marilyn Alexander, Betti Torrier. Many other Reconciling UM's participated in actions and were several were arrested as part of the Coalition and Soulforce actions. AMAR participants in the balcony were a "choir of angels" and "cloud of witnesses" for delegates on the floor and those arrested.
The Broken Chalice - Prior to the Friday, May 12, Multi-Cultural Communion sponsored by AMAR, The Rev. Sharon Moe led a ritual that included readings from Jeremiah 18 and the breaking of the a large commemorative chalice, decorated with the logo for GC-2000. This action was named as a visual reminder that the UMC body of Christ is being dis-membered by the actions of the General Conference.
We praise God and give many thanks for -
To all those who participated in the variety of witnesses at UMC-GC of need, in policy and practice, for a truly inclusive church: delegates, bishops, Reconciling UM's, visitors to GC, Soulforce participants, -- and all back home who were holding us in prayer and supporting our activities. You are "The Loving Third" of the UMC.
A huge thank you to the team of volunteers who worked with James Preston and Karen Oliveto to bring together the Saturday, "Rally of Love" which ended with an encircling of the Cleveland Convention Center - as a way to embrace the UMC with the loving arms of Christ.
Cudos to the Methodist Federation for Social Action for a wonderful Ball Award evening on Saturday, May 7, with music, entertainment, and honoring of those doing the work of justice in the UM Church: Mark Bowman, and The Rev. James Lawson.
Amen and thank you to The Rev. James Lawson, our preacher at the Sunday afternoon, worship service at First UMC Cleveland - where the 200+ UM-related stoles were dedicated in a glorious and healing liturgy.
Praise for Martha Juillerat and the Shower of Stoles for partnering with the RCP in a powerful witness, gathering more than 200 UM-related stoles since August 1999 - and continuing to gather stoles from LGBT UM's and allies. Details -- firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much gratitude Mary Ann Carlson and the large number of people and churches in Cleveland, who opened their homes and space to us -- dedicating enormous amounts of time and energy to our efforts for weeks prior to General Conference.
Appreciation for the leadership of AMAR for preparation for and at GC: Gilbert Caldwell, Convener of the UMs of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (which produced the statement "The Storehouses of God's Justice Do Not Run Low"), Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director of MFSA; Virginia and Bruce Hilton, Organizers for the Reconciling Parent's Network (who produced the "Reconciling Parents' Statement" ; Jeanne Knepper, Spokesperson for Affirmation - UMs for LGBT Concerns; Marilyn Alexander, Interim Director of the RCP; Greg Dell and volunteers from "In All Things Charity", who staffed the AMAR activities at General Conference.
Cheers also to members of the AMAR Coalition who participated with Native Americans outside Jacobs Field, on Thursday, May 11, protesting the racism of "Chief Wahoo" as a logo for the Cleveland baseball teams outside.
An extensive amount of material, including newsletters, photos images and reflections by volunteers, is available at the RCP website - www.rcp.org.
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