On December 8, 2019, First United Methodist Church of Whitewater (FUMC) announced that it had become a “Reconciling Congregation.” A Reconciling Congregation is fully inclusive and welcoming, not judging persons based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity or any other personal or social characteristic.
In February of 2019 a special worldwide conference of The United Methodist Church was called to consider possible changes to the denomination’s position on human sexuality and to explore options to strengthen church unity on the issue. Delegates to that conference, many from non-US churches, voted by a narrow margin to not only retain denomination-wide prohibitions against same-sex marriages and practicing LGBTQ clergy, but to increase enforcement of those policies. In response, the “Prime Time” high school youth of FUMC almost immediately adopted a statement in opposition to the denomination’s decisions, affirming that “God made us who we are and ALL of us are children of God.”
In response to the bold statement by the youth and supportive comments from many adult members, FUMC formed a task force to consider becoming a Reconciling Congregation. That task force recommended adoption of the following welcome statement, and all members and friends of the congregation were encouraged to vote on its acceptance:
You are welcome to come just as you are and be met by God who knows you by name, who loves you and wants to have an ever-closer relationship with you. God made us who we are, and ALL of us are children of God.
To people of all…
- Sexual orientations and gender identities
- Racial and ethnic backgrounds
- Ages and physical/mental abilities
- Economic and family status
…we welcome and affirm you.
We are all on a spiritual journey and want all to feel included here.
Nearly two hundred children, youth and adults voted. Some people volunteered why they voted “yes.” “I am totally in favor,” said one. Another simply said, “It’s about time.” A third voted in favor but added, “I still have questions.” A young girl who has two mothers said, “Because I want to keep coming here.”
In announcing the overwhelmingly positive vote in December 8th worship services, Lynn Binnie, chair of the task force, said, Being a Reconciling Congregation does not refer to a single issue but to our faithful commitment to be reconciled to one another in all matters, without demanding that there be unanimity. We’ve always known that we are a welcoming congregation, but there are people in the Whitewater area who have heard about the stance of our denomination and who, as a result, believe that they would not be truly welcome here. As a Reconciling Congregation, we are making a public statement that God welcomes all and so do we.