What is it to “reconcile?” Wikipedia says it’s “to restore relationships.” I think that’s about right (even though it did come from Wikipedia).
Reconciliation is one of those terms we throw around a lot when we talk about Jesus. Some say reconciliation was one of Jesus’ main missions. If this is so, and if reconciliation means to restore relationships, then perhaps we can look around and see who might be hurting because of broken relationships.
One thing to consider as we assess who is hurting in our neighborhoods, is that reconciliation doesn’t begin and end with those we ourselves have hurt. I’ve heard folks say things like “I shouldn’t have to reconcile, I didn’t do anything wrong.” But Jesus didn’t do anything wrong either, yet he brought the lepers into his community restoring relationships where they were cut out of society and pushed to the margins. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong to women who were seen as less valuable than oxen, yet he continued to nurture, have compassion and invite women, and children into his community of faithful followers. Anybody can reconcile. All we have to do is observe who is pushed out and invite them back in.
This is a conversation faith communities are having all over the world. The United Methodist denomination has a caucus group called “Reconciling Ministries Network” whose purpose is to reconcile with God’s children who have been pushed out of the church, specifically those in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer) community. Aldersgate United Methodist Church has explored since September how society has marginalized such a large population. We have held informational sessions, church meetings, small group dinners and had individual conversations regarding how people who are a part of the LGBTQ community may be brought back into the fold of God’s love.
Last Sunday, Aldersgate UMC took a vote to become a “Reconciling Congregation” and adopt the following reconciling statement as a way to intentionally live out our faith:
Aldersgate United Methodist Church celebrates that all persons are created in God’s image and are of sacred worth. We publically affirm a commitment to spiritual diversity and individual integrity. Our faith compels us to be in intentional ministry to, with and for, all people, including those who have not always been accepted because of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual/affectional identity, age, physical abilities/qualities, social/economic status, family make-up, or religious background. We are a community seeking to embrace you and
celebrate in God’s love with you.
The blessing for me, as the spiritual leader of this congregation, is that the body was of ONE mind, ONE spirit, ONE mission as the vote was unanimous. I appreciate the Quaker-based model of consensus when it comes to discerning God’s will which leads a group towards unity. I believe that is what happened at Aldersgate last Sunday and I could not be more proud to be a part of a community willing to live out Jesus’ reconciling ministries.
If you would like to learn more about what it is to be a reconciling person/congregation/community/etc.... you can go to rmnetwork.org.
• Reverend Susan Boegli is pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church and a frequent contributor to “Living and Growing.”