What does it mean to be a “Reconciling” congregation?
A Reconciling Congregation openly welcomes persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities to fully participate in all aspects of its congregational life. It also supports like-minded people who are making a difference in The United Methodist Church and in the world.
Our church has been reconciling for more than 25 years. To formally identify itself as a Reconciling Congregation, our church went through a long period of discernment, discord and discussion. We make an annual donation to join the Reconciling Ministries Network, a movement of tens of thousands of United Methodists committed to making the entire denomination more welcoming of LGBTQ people.
RMN lists us on its website, and we use a rainbow logo on our church signs, publications and website, identifying ourselves in a way recognizable to the community at large.
More specifics on RMN’s mission and goals can be found on this page of its website.
Of course we welcome everybody – why do we need an “official” designation?
The United Methodist Church holds official policies that explicitly and categorically exclude one group of people – Gays and Lesbians — from full participation in congregational life. Because of that, United Methodist congregations in the Reconciling Ministries Network specifically include LGBTQ people in their welcoming statements. RMN provides support for congregations wanting to be in ministry with LGBTQ persons. LGBTQ persons face discrimination because their sexuality is viewed as different, but this issue is about more than sexuality, it’s about whether we are truly open to all people who want to follow Christ.
What does LGBTQIA stand for?
LGBT is the acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual or ally. Here are some quick definitions:
All those these diverse identities are joined together because of their shared oppression under heterosexism, homophobia, sexism and genderism. LGBTQ people are from every socioeconomic class, education level, political affiliation, age group, religion, race and ethnicity.
What is sexual orientation, and what do the different terms mean?
Sexual orientation is the overall term that is used to describe people’s physical and/or romantic attractions to other people. The most common labels:
- Heterosexual (or straight) refers to a person who
is attracted to and falls in love with someone of another gender.
- Homosexual (or gay man or lesbian woman) refers to a person who is attracted to and falls in love with someone of the same gender.
- Bisexual people are attracted to both men and women, and may not be equally attracted to both sexes.Asexual people lack sexual attraction to anyone, or have low to no interest in sexual activity. The term refers to a person’s sexual orientation, not to a person who willfully abstains from sexual activity.
What is gender identity, and what does it mean to identify as transgender, gender fluid or intersex?
Gender identity refers to the internal sense people have that they are female, male, or some variation. For many people, biological sex (which is based on chromosomes and sexual anatomy) and gender identity are the same; the term for such a person is “cisgender.”
For others, however, gender identity and biological sex may be different. The term “transgender” describes a range of people who experience or express their gender differently from what most people expect. Transgender is an overarching term including anyone expressing gender characteristics that do not correspond with those traditionally ascribed to the person’s presumed sex. It is NOT a sexual orientation. Some transgender people identify themselves as female-to-male or male-to-female transsexual. They may take hormones prescribed by a doctor and undergo medical procedures, possibly — but not necessarily — including sex reassignment surgery. Others don’t change their bodies at all but identify as other than their birth gender.
Some people identify as transgender because they don’t feel comfortable with either the male or female gender exclusively. They might fluctuate between gender identities, or between having a gender and not having one, and might describe themselves as gender fluid. Many gender fluid persons prefer the pronoun “they” rather than “he” or “she” (or prefer to be addressed by their name exclusively rather than a pronoun).
Another type of gender identity is intersex, a term used for a variety of conditions in which someone is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definitions of female or male. Some intersex people have anatomy or genitalia of two genders; others have anatomy or genitalia that fall somewhere else on the female-male spectrum.
Some people enjoy wearing clothing commonly associated with the other gender for comfort, disguise, entertainment or other motives. Cross-dressing behavior does not automatically imply transgender identity.
What does queer mean?
“Queer” is increasingly used as an umbrella term for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender and gender fluid persons or for anyone who feels somehow outside the societal norms regarding gender or sexuality. It is a political statement that advocates for breaking stereotypes and binary thinking as well as a term for sexual orientation. It is also a simple label to explain a complex set of sexual behaviors and desires. The term is fluid and allows the person who uses it to identify as different without specifying how or in what context.
Isn't queer an insult?
Originally the word “queer” meant “different” or “unconventional,” but at some point it began to be used in a negative way to refer to people who were seen outside of the heterosexual or gender “norms.” Many people who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s remember the term being used negatively and, therefore, don’t feel comfortable using it. Some LGBTQ people do not like identifying with the term, but in recent years, it has been reclaimed by some members of the LGBTQ community. Many young people actually prefer to identify themselves as queer because they find it less limiting than identifying themselves with one category that defines their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. For them, queer is a broader, more inclusive category.
Doesn’t the Bible say homosexuality is a sin?
For many years, some Bible verses have been interpreted to say that same-gender sexual behavior is sinful. For the past 30 or 40 years, though, biblical scholars have been challenging those interpretations. Many point out that Jesus never spoke about homosexuality at all, instead calling on us to love one another. Here is an interesting perspective on homosexuality and the scriptures.
Do we allow gay weddings in our building?
Yes! Our Leadership Council reached consensus in 2013 that we would allow same sex couples to be married in our building, after same sex marriage became legal in WA state in 2012.