On May 19, 2019, Crown Heights UMC voted to affiliate with the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for full inclusion of LGBTQ people within the United Methodist Church. Reconciling Ministries Network’s webpage is rmnetwork.org.
And we adopted this statement:
“Crown Heights United Methodist Church is dedicated to personifying inclusion and equality for ALL children of God. We welcome people of every sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, class, nationality, and mental or physical ability to be in ministry with us. We want our community to recognize Crown Heights as a safe haven where all people are welcomed, affirmed, loved, and supported by the members of our congregation. We call our church members to be the extended hand of God.
Ephesians 4:4-6 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
This is an article published in the Oklahoman about our process to become Reconciling.
Oklahoma City area church joins Reconciling Network
byCARLA HINTON, Published: Sat, June 15, 2019 5:05 AM
The marquee outside one metro-area church has a message for the surrounding community.
“All are welcome. All means all.”
The signage outside Crown Heights United Methodist Church is just one indication that the house of worship recently joined a faith-based coalition working in support of gays and lesbians in the United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Trina Bose North, Crown Heights’ senior pastor, said the church voted in May to become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network. The Chicago-based organization is a network of churches, individuals and faith groups working toward full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals in the United Methodist denomination.
North said church members knew about the network for years but seriously began considering joining it after the Methodists’ special General Conference meeting in February in St. Louis.
Methodist delegates from around the world gathered at that meeting to take up the issue of gay inclusion in the church. At that time, delegates voted to uphold the denomination’s prohibition against same-sex marriage and the ordination of gays and lesbians. Delegates also voted to implement punishments for Methodist clergy who defy the prohibition: suspension from ministry for one year without pay for the first offense and the loss of ministry credentials for a second offense. In the past, punishment has been inconsistent for clergy who have come out as gay or lesbian to their congregations or who have performed gay weddings.
North said she and the church’s Reconciling Group were grieved over what they saw as the denomination sending a message that the LGBTQ community is unwelcome in the church.
She said the group decided to host several discussions about the issue of inclusion of gays and lesbians. The conversations led to the church holding two congregational votes. Church members voted to accept or reject a statement of inclusivity, and they cast ballots on the matter of joining the Reconciling Ministries advocacy group.
The statement of inclusivity was approved by 97 percent.
North said 84 percent of the congregation voted in favor of joining the Reconciling group, 10 percent opposed the idea and 6 percent abstained from voting.
Lane Neal, chairman of both the church’s board of trustees and the church’s Reconciling group, said joining the pro-LGBTQ network was an important move for the church. He said some church members had talked about possibly joining other faith denominations in the aftermath of the Methodist Church’s double-down on the ban on same-sex marriage and the prohibition of openly gay and lesbian clergy.
Another group member Julie Williams said it seemed like a good time for “taking a public stance.”
“We had enough people that were excited about it,” she said.
The church’s Reconciling Group evolved from a voluntary church gathering held in September 2018 to discuss the issue of LGBTQ inclusion in the church. About 35 people helped form the group to continue conversations on the issue.
Neal said the group eventually chose to bring the matter of joining the Reconciling network to the congregation even though they had not grappled with such a topic before.
“This was new territory for us. I don’t know if there were any of us who were looking to upset the apple cart. We knew we needed to reach out, to create a conversation that we’ve been talking about since the first week of March,” he said.
North said it’s important to note that Crown Heights Methodist will continue to abide by the rules of the United Methodist Church.
“We are still United Methodists and are still limited by the rules of the Church. This vote does not mean we can marry or ordain gay people. It does mean that our congregation commits to walking with our gay members,” she said.
“If we have a gay couple who wants to get married, we will surround them with our support and presence and help them work through all the specifics of their wedding in another location. And if we have a gay candidate for ministry come through our congregation, we commit to supporting and advocating for them through the Church’s process.”
She said joining the network is simply a type of signal to both the LGBTQ community and the community-at-large.
“We want our community and denomination to know we are an open and affirming church. We want LGBTQ people and allies to know all are welcome here. This is a church with different nationalities, different income levels and different voting preferences all worshiping together,” she said. “The warmth and hospitality of this church is genuine.”
Allie Burkett, another member of the church’s Reconciling group, agreed.
“I think our goal is just to celebrate and experience life together,” she said.
The Reconciling Ministries Network continues to grow, adding at least three churches into its fold in the last few weeks, including Crown Heights.
According to the organization’s website, more than 40,000 Reconciling United Methodists and more than 1,000 Reconciling churches and communities are part of the coalition.
“We’re very excited that Crown Heights United Methodist is joining the movement. We are very excited to see all the ways that they care for and witness to their community,” said Ophelia Hu Kinney, the network’s communications specialist.
Kinney said more than 60 churches have joined the movement since the special General Conference in February.
She said being part of the network is a way to proclaim several things.
“First and foremost, it means they stand in opposition of what passed at General Conference,” Kinney said. Also, “they recognize their community or church as one that has open doors for all people.”
In Oklahoma, besides the metro area, there are Reconciling churches and groups in Tulsa, Tahlequah, Lawton, Broken Arrow and Calera.
Crown Heights joins several Reconciling churches and groups in the metro area, including: Mosaic United Methodist; groups within both Grace United Methodist Church and Quail Springs United Methodist; Mainstream United Methodist of Oklahoma, based in Bethany; and a group within St. Stephen’s United Methodist in Norman.