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Reconciling Ministries at Highland FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is Reconciling Ministries Network or RMN?

Reconciling Ministries Network is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, groups, churches, and campus ministries working for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. Established in 1984, RMN works for full equality in membership, ordination, and marriage for God’s LGBTQ children. There are over 1,000 Reconciling Ministries and over 43,000 Reconciling United Methodist individuals.

What does it mean to be a “Reconciling Church or Congregation?”

A Reconciling Church is one that embraces, affirms, and works for the full participation of all people in the United Methodist Church, including full equality in membership, ordination, and marriage for God’s LGBTQ children. Reconciling Churches make a public declaration welcoming all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, to participate fully in its congregational life, and they work for change within the denomination for full inclusiveness and equal rights and privileges for all. 

Does Highland already have a Reconciling Group within the congregation?

Yes! We do! The Fellowship Class became a Reconciling Group in 2019 with a unanimous vote. The Fellowship Class is one of our oldest classes at Highland. 

Why did we explore becoming a reconciling congregation?

In preparation for what was supposed to be General Conference 2020, Church Council decided that rather than guess the outcome of the upcoming conference, we should know where Highland stood. Many concerns had been expressed after the special General Conference in 2019 and conversation intensified in its wake. This felt like a faithful step as we seek to live into who we are as a family of faith at Highland, and as we discern who we are as a body within our community in Raleigh. 

After the adoption of the Inclusion Statement, Church Council voted to pursue joining Reconciling Ministries Network as a way of publicly living into that statement. Declaring who we are and what we believe to our LGBTQ members past and present, and even those yet to come, and creating a sacred space for all to worship and be a part of Highland United Methodist Church.

Aren’t we already a welcoming congregation?

In the traditional services, the question was often asked “Highland, who are we?” The congregation would respond with our mission statement – we are an inviting family of faith seeking to love, serve, and share Christ with our community and the world. Highland strives to be a place of welcome and mission. 

Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters have most often been hurt by the Church. The overwhelming perception within the LGBTQ Community is that they are not welcomed within the church – they have faced blatant discrimination, hurt, and even abuse.  

While Highland is a place of welcome, that does not openly translate as a place of welcome within the United Methodist Church for the LGBTQ community, as the current United Methodist Book of Discipline still discriminates against LGBTQ persons. 

Being a reconciling congregation indicates to non-heterosexual people that they are welcome.

Does taking this step put us in violation with the Book of Discipline or change our United Methodist Affiliation?

No, it does not. Joining RMN does not change our United Methodist affiliation. We would still be within the United Methodist denomination. 

Making a statement of inclusion actually supports the Book of Discipline which calls for the inclusion of all persons who are viewed as individuals of sacred worth. Official United Methodist policy bars the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals”. The Board of Ordained Ministry and bishop of each annual conference must decide how to handle this mandate. The Book of Discipline also “prohibits ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions”. Each local church must decide for itself how it will handle this matter.

Will “Reconciling” become the sole focus of our ministries at Highland?

No. Highland is blessed with a very rich history of strong ministries and outreach within Raleigh and beyond through Family Promise, Habitat for Humanity, Rise Against Hunger, the Community Garden, Interfaith Food Shuttle, Disaster Response, and many many more! It is our hope that Reconciling Ministries will become another way in which our congregation can live into our mission to be an inviting family of faith seeking to love, serve, and share Christ with our community and the world. Like all of our ministries at Highland, the emphasis on reconciling work will depend on the commitment and energy of those in our congregation who choose to step up and step out to raise the level of hope for those who cry out for love and justice. 

By specifically calling out that we are openly welcoming LGBT, aren’t we putting one group above others?

Our intention is that this movement be first and foremost about inclusion of ALL people. No person or group is more important than another. However, it is necessary for us to be specific and intentional about naming LGBTQ because Christian denominations including the United Methodist Church have been exclusionary of the LGBTQ Community. Even now, the only group explicitly excluded from basic rights including marriage and ordination by the Book of Discipline are homosexuals. Therefore, it is expected that people in the LGBT community will assume that they are either not welcome or at best second class citizens in United Methodist Churches. It is vital that we are explicit in our welcoming of LGBT.

What is our statement of inclusion? 

In the spring of 2020, HUMC’s Church Council created a Statement of Inclusion that was approved and adopted by Highland after a congregational vote in August of 2020. It reads as follows:

“We recognize that as children of God all people are of sacred worth. Because Christ has opened the church to all people, we fully welcome, accept, and affirm each and every person into full fellowship, without regard to their age, economic class, educational level, gender identity, marital status, mental ability, nationality, physical ability, race, or sexual orientation. It will be our position to support the candidacy and ordination of qualified persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Likewise, we will support the rights of the clergy of Highland UMC to perform marriages for all couples who seek to be married.”

In affiliating with Reconciling Ministries Network we also acknowledge and affirm the need to put our thoughts and prayers into action for our faith and love in God compels us to seek equity, mercy and justice. Reconciling Ministries Network’s Foundational Reconciling Statement reads:

“We celebrate God’s gift of diversity and value the wholeness made possible in community equally shared and shepherded by all. We welcome and affirm people of every gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, who are also of every age, race, ethnicity, physical and mental ability, level of education, and family structure, and of every economic, immigration, marital, and social status, and so much more. We acknowledge that we live in a world of profound social, economic, and political inequities. As followers of Jesus, we commit ourselves to the pursuit of justice and pledge to stand in solidarity with all who are marginalized and oppressed.”

 Can’t we choose to adopt a social justice ministry that is less controversial?

Looking for the “safest” or least controversial ministry defeats the whole purpose. Our mission statement challenges, even invites, the risks involved in responding to God’s call to raise the level of hope for those who cry out for love & justice. Like letting your light shine rather than hiding it under a bushel (Matthew 5:15), the decision to become a reconciling congregation is an event to celebrate rather than a decision to be kept quiet.