By Christina Dillabough Designer/Editor
Saint Francis in the Foothills UMC recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as a reconciling church with Bishop Robert Hoshibata, Rev. Dr. Tex Sample, and District Superintendent Rev. Karen Vannoy as guest speakers and sending messages of greeting. Guests included UMC members from all four districts of The Desert Southwest Conference and people of other faiths including United Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Unitarian, Quaker, Jewish, and Buddhist. After the celebration service numerous people shared their reflection on the event.
“The celebration introduced us to a vibrant congregation that truly exhibits our denomination’s slogan, “Open (and joyous) Hearts, Open (and welcoming) Minds, and Open (and inviting) Doors.” We applaud your work.” -Glenda and Gene Hill, Flagstaff Federated Community Church
“What a blessing to be part of such an event! The heart that was in this celebration was evident from start to finish. Many people have led and continue the fight for equality just like our Lord would want. All does mean all!” -Toney Mauney, Desert Mission UMC
What does it mean to be Reconciling?
According to the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) of The United Methodist Church website, the Reconciling process takes intentional planning, educating, and the organizing of small groups, congregations, and various levels of living into the vision of a fully inclusive church. A Reconciling community must have an approved statement that specifically names a welcome of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
“In the most simplistic definition this means that St. Francis declared its doors open to LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered) people. But the real commitment was a little bit bigger than that. Perhaps the most applicable definition of the word ‘reconciliation’ is to restore to oneness that which has been torn asunder.” -Scott Morris
Reconciling Communities work toward restoring oneness
Scott Morris of Saint Francis in the Foothills described the beginning of their Reconciliation process:
“Early on, the reconciliation effort focused on welcoming those in society who were among the most vulnerable, the most intentionally targeted for criticism, exclusion and ostracism. It was a time when few people risked coming out publicly as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender. One gay member who was fired from his job when he came out was hired as the church administrator. Another gay member founded the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network to enlist Tucson congregations in the effort to provide support and practical aid to those suffering from AIDS in our community. The AIDS victims were people who were initially so stigmatized and suffered so greatly socially, economically and physically that they surely were seen by many to be to be the ones that Jesus described in his statement ‘whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do it for me,’ Matt 25:40, NIV.”
Want to start a Reconciling Community?
The Desert Southwest Conference is a Reconciling community as is the Western Jurisdiction, the Jurisdiction that the Conference is a part of. To find out more about the Reconciling Ministry Network or to access resources to start the process of becoming a Reconciling Community, visit http://rmnetwork.org.