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Pro-homosexuality Reconciling Organization Says, "No Compromise" To Labeling Ban


From: "U.M. Cornet" umcornet@hotmail.com

CALLED OUT INFORMATION SERVICE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE From the Reconciling Congregation Program

In its fall session of 1998 the Judicial Council issued a decision which decreed that annual conferences and churchwide agencies cannot adopt labels which identify them with unofficial movements or organizations. On November 2, 1999, the Judicial Council announced a decision which applies the same ban to local congregations: "A local church or any of its organizational units may not identify or label itself as an unofficial body or movement." The ruling is evoking much confusion in the constituencies of the "unofficial movements and organizations" to whose ministries this action is a response.

The Board of Directors of the Reconciling Congregations Program (RCP) wants to assure United Methodists, especially those who participate in the program, that this decision will neither curtail nor weaken its efforts to promote the full inclusion of all persons in the life of the church regardless of sexual orientation. RCP is a growing movement and anticipates that the publicity engendered by this decision may stimulate even more rapid growth.

The Reconciling Congregations Program is an unofficial caucus within United Methodism and, therefore, not directly impacted by this ruling. The dozens of Reconciling congregations and congregations which are in the process of becoming Reconciling are, however, very directly affected. RCP leadership will be in communication with these congregations, as well as the thousands of Reconciling United Methodist individuals and groups. Each of these bodies is free to make its own decisions. In a consultation with pastors and representatives of Reconciling congregations held in January of 1999, there was unanimous unwillingness to surrender the name "Reconciling." This consensus raises questions as to the mechanisms of enforcement which denominational authorities might utilize.

The salient concerns are not those of terminology nor nomenclature. Congregations and other groups might choose to describe themselves as engaged in the "ministry of reconciliation,""in support of the Reconciling Congregations Program," or as "welcoming," "inclusive," or simply as "reconciling United Methodists." It is important that congregations use some designation which communicates clearly to persons seeking a church in which they will be truly welcome.

The Judicial Council expresses its concern that labels are "divisive." The Reconciling Congregations Program shares that concern. However, both history and contemporary events teach forcefully that, within a body where there is injustice and discrimination, any stand for justice and inclusiveness will potentially be divisive.

Let there be no mistake. There will be no compromising in the work of the Reconciling Congregations Program. There will be no diminishing of its commitment or lessening of its intensity. This judicial decision provides impetus for a process of revisioning and broadening of its mission in which RCP was already engaged. The program will continue to minister in accord with its mission statement, a part of which reads: "The program encourages and equips individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and church bodies to be instruments of justice within the church by inviting all persons to be full participants in the life of the church, both in policy and practice."

Contacts: Gayle Felton, Board Chair

Marilyn Alexander, Interim Executive Director Marilyn@rcp.org

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