Welcome to the First Church Reconciling Ministries Core Committee web page. The Core Committee was formed to develop a process by which the FUMCOR congregation will deliberate and ultimately vote whether First Church should become a member of the Reconciling Ministries Network (https:\\rmnetwork.org ). The Reconciling Ministries Network is an organization seeking the full inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Methodist Church. 

You can find a copy of the document outlining the discernment process approved by the Church Council at the link below. Following the path of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral (Reason, Scripture, Experience, and Tradition) over the next several months, the Core Committee will organize opportunities for education, storytelling, prayer, worship, and graceful discussion to give everyone in the congregation the opportunity for learning, discussion, and introspection on this topic. Please join us in this important journey in our church’s life. 

RMNCC Event Contacts:

Greg Smith: smit92611@gmail.com
Jim Hardy: mjhardy3@comcast.net
Kelsey Morris: kelseym@fumcor.org
Kirstine Buchanan: kea.buchanan@gmail.com
Linda Morel: morel2tn@comcast.net
Susan Garrott: susangarrott1525@gmail.com
Joe Thomas: j21thomasx@yahoo.com

Events, Past and Future:

Coffee, Dessert, and Difficult Conversations
Reading Scripture Responsibly: The Clobber Verses

This event has already taken place and can be viewed via the link below.

On June 15th beginning at 6:30 p.m., the Rev. Chris Black returned to lead a single-night conversation focused on verses and passages from the Bible that are often characterized as the “clobber verses.” These passages are often used to condemn persons whose identities or beliefs are different than the reader’s. Chris will delve into the context of particular passages including the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the book of Leviticus, the gospels, and some of Paul’s letters. The goal will be to cultivate a responsible reading and method of interpretation for these Biblical texts, which are often used to judge, divide, and clobber people. There will be opportunities for listening, Q & A, and small group discussion. We hope you will come to this event and join the conversation.

in August:

“Thursday Live” Discussion with Helen Ryde, Southeastern Regional Coordinator for the Reconciling Ministries Network Organization

Thursday. August 11, 2022 from 11:00 -12:00
Streamed live on Facebook and YouTube

Frequently Asked Questions

(Updated 6/30/22)

Questions Regarding Our First Church Discernment Process

Where did the idea of joining the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) come from? In Feb. 2019, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church narrowly voted to 

  • maintain the current language in the Book of Discipline describing “homosexuality [as] incompatible with Christian teaching,” 
  • continue the prohibition on clergy conducting same-sex marriages, 
  • continue the prohibition on LGBTQ Christians serving as clergy, and 
  • establish strengthened penalties against clergy who violate the Book of Discipline by disobeying i and ii. 

The proposals put forth at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference and the outcome of the vote prompted some of our First Church Sunday School classes to ask an important question: “What kind of church does God call us to be?”

An e-mail was circulated to the Sunday school classes in March 2019 suggesting that as a response to the vote, we consider joining the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). The Branches and the Young Adults Classes investigated and decided to join the RMN as Reconciling Communities. 

In 2021, Young Adults and Branches decided to invite the congregation to join the RMN. They wrote a proposal to Church Council to form a committee starting with some members of each class to develop a process by which our congregation could decide whether joining the RMN is right for us. The process for discernment by the church was presented to Church Council in April 2022 and approved.

What is the RMN?

The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) was founded in 1984 with a mission: “Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) equips and mobilizes United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

The RMN is a group of over 44,000 people (mostly Methodists) and more than 1300 Reconciling Ministries who support the inclusion of all persons in the United Methodist Church (UMC) and who celebrate the loving relationships between all people and believe that however God made you, you are beloved and celebrated.

The RMN resists the anti-LGBTQIA+ votes taken at the GC2019 meeting. RMN’s staff provide information and resources on the reconciling process; provide online services, prayer, and worship; and provide a website to publish the names and locations of safe member churches (i.e. Reconciling Churches).  The website acts as a resource (akin to the Green Book” used in the 1930’s-60’s) for the queer community to find safe places of worship. 

Aren’t we already a welcoming church as stated in the “Welcome Statement?” So, why do we want to become a Reconciling Church? 

Becoming a Reconciling Church is the next step in our welcoming journey where we move from not only welcoming but also celebrating all people. It’s our chance to “reconcile” or “heal the divide” between the UMC and members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are excluded from full participation in the life of the church. 

While our congregation is welcoming and celebrates all people, unfortunately, it will be assumed by people outside the church that our default feelings are the same as those in the voted on by the General Conference. The UMC Book of Discipline sends out conflicting messages about welcoming.  It contains both the statements that “all persons are of sacred worth and supports basic human liberties” yet elsewhere states that it “considers homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching” which are seen by many as contradictory.

At the same time, other Christian denominations even make it clear that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are unwelcome so that many have not heard the words “You are a child of God, and God loves you just the way you are.”

To counter assumptions that First Church agrees with the General Conference votes taken in 2019, joining the RMN gives us a chance to publicly state our position. Also, once we join, we become listed on the RMN website map as a reconciling, welcoming, and safe church.

Why should we join the RMN?

Some of the benefits for First Church in joining the Reconciling Ministries Network include:

  1. It can be one more way our congregation could extend God’s fully inclusive love and unconditional welcome. 
  2. Membership would give our church a way of challenging the default assumption made by outsiders that all United Methodist Churches are anti-LGBTQIA. 
  3. The inclusion of First Church on the RMN map will help current neighbors, new residents, out of town guests, or anyone else locate us as a safe church for the queer community.
  4. Our membership would allow us to publicly state our identity as a church regarding LGBTQIA+ and intersectional justice. 
  5. It would be another opportunity for us to live as disciples of Christ who modeled and called us to love and serve all people, especially those pushed to the margins. 

What is the process for our church to discern whether we want to join the RMN?

On a high level, a process to join the reconciling ministries network is outlined in the document “Building an Inclusive Church” found on the RMN website rmnetwork.org.  The First Church Reconciling Ministries Core Committee (RMNCC) was constituted to build a unique process tailored to our congregation. 

The RMNCC created a program guided by the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Some of the events falling into those are categories include podcasts and an evening speaker with a panel discussion with members of the queer community;  a “Difficult Conversations” on the “Clobber Passages” and focused Sunday School lessons; a showing of the movie an Act of Love” followed by time for discussion and developing a set of Frequently asked questions; and prayers services and worship services aimed at introspection on the topis; falling into Reason, Scripture, Experience, and Tradition, respectively. This program will be executed over the next several months and is meant for education, storytelling, prayer, worship, and graceful discussions.

Along the way, the RMNCC will ask the congregation for feedback through surveys and by taking non-binding straw man votes to gauge where the congregation would like to go and talk about. At the end of the process, we hope to have some special worship services leading up to a final vote by the active members of the congregation if they wish to join the RMN.

The actual decision to join the RMN is very simple. All we have to do is to vote to accept the foundational statement of the RMN. If greater than 75% of the voting church members agree to accept, then we will be accepted into the RMN. The Foundational Statement reads as follows: 

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.

Will this mean we will become “the gay church”? How will this change our church?

No. It will mean we are an “all kinds” type of church. There are now over 5000 affirming churches and ministries in the US and Canada (Affirming (United Church of Canada), More Light (Presbyterian), Oasis (Episcopalian), Open and Affirming (Disciples of Christ or United Church of Christ), Reconciling (United Methodist), Reconciling in Christ (Lutheran), Supportive (Brethren/Mennonite), Welcoming (Unitarian Universalist), and Welcoming and Affirming (Baptist)). The experience of these congregations has been that they have received some new lesbian and gay members. In some churches, they have also gained heterosexual couples also who support being welcoming and affirming. 

Why focus only on the LGBTQIA+ community?

Our intention is that this movement is first and foremost about the inclusion of ALL people, especially, all people who are marginalized and oppressed. No person or group is more important than another. However, the only group explicitly excluded from basic rights including marriage and ordination by the Book of Discipline are members of the queer community. People in that 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 LGBTQ folks.

Won’t these discussions be very divisive?

Human sexuality can be uncomfortable and divisive. Our goal is to Draw the Circle Wide. Our discernment process is based on building relationships to promote open and honest dialogue in which all voices may be heard.  It is OK for us to agree to disagree. Key to this discussion is that we want to ask ourselves whether anyone should be excluded from fully participating. We are aiming for consensus, not necessarily unanimity and not a simple majority. As part of our discussions, we will observe the following principles during the process:

  • Be in a spirit of prayer.
  • Love, hospitality, and grace define this journey.
  • Respect, listen to, and consider all points of view.
  • Be transparent, honest, and open with the congregation and its leaders.
  • Take as much time as needed.
  • Accept whatever outcome ensues from the process and final vote.
  • Be sensitive to people’s feelings and emotions.
  • Listen for God’s call to witness.
  • Document steps in the process.

Once we become a Reconciling Church, what comes next?

We should celebrate joining the Reconciling Ministries Network. We would be added to the RMN’s list of safe churches. We would consider an initial financial contribution to the RMN.

We would commit to staying true to our commitment by: 

  1. Participating in outreach, affirmation, and intersectional ministry with and for LGBTQIA+ persons in the local setting.
  2. Creating opportunities to engage in dialogue, build relationships, and advocate for changes to UMC policies related to ordination equality, marriage equality, and LGBTQIA+ justice.

We would identify new ways to fold our commitment into the church’s life. Some ideas might be to identify Missions that would support our commitment, partner with Social Concerns to develop an annual welcoming audit, have an annual worship service to celebrate our commitment, maintain an RMN webpage, etc…

What does it mean to join?

We adopt a public statement (The Foundational Statement listed above in FAQ #5) which says we’re inclusive and affirm all, especially LGBTQIA+ people. It would be a public affirmation of what our church believes but not a policy statement that would go against the UMC Book of Discipline. It would reveal our courage and resolve to stand with the marginalized and oppressed people in our society. 

How long does this process take? 

The planned process of education, prayer, and services is planned to take 6-12 months based on Faith Community Assessment Survey. Currently, there are events planned through the end of November.

Will this take focus or resources away from other priorities?

This is a grassroots mission started by the congregation as in many of our other missions, and as such, it will be given resources and priority as needed. As a new mission, it may stand alongside other efforts, or there may be opportunities to incorporate it into ongoing efforts.

How will youth and younger children be part of this?

We invite youth to attend fully in this process with permission of, and hopefully together with, their parents.

Why not just do this on our own?

This is our own process tailored for our church. RMN has resources to help us answers questions and provide guidance. 

Who will participate in the vote? 

Active, attending, affirmed First Church members will vote on whether we will join the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Questions Regarding the United Methodist Church

Will this put us in violation of the Book of Discipline?

No. Becoming a member congregation of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) in no way violates The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Indeed, the Book of Discipline has paragraphs encouraging congregations to be inclusive, non-discriminatory, and in ministry to all. The RMN seeks to embody the United Methodist motto of “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.”

Is this related to the split in the UMC?

No. Since 1984, the RMN has been equipping and mobilizing United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Our congregation’s decision on joining the RMN is an independent process from whatever split takes place in the UMC. If First Church decides to join the RMN, we would be aligning our voices with those who publicly disagree with the statements in the current Book of Discipline concerning the inclusion of the Queer community. However, that decision would not affect our congregation’s policies regarding same-sex marriage or ordination of LGBTQ persons. First Church will still adhere to the Book of Discipline as long as we are in the UMC. In fact, other sections of the Book of Discipline support the inclusion of all people who are seen as individuals of sacred worth. 

Does this mean same sex marriages will be performed at FUMCOR. 

No. Same-sex marriage is still forbidden by decisions of the General Conference.

Questions Regarding Scripture

What does the Bible say about LGBTQ persons? 

This is a very important question but not an easy one to answer in a short space. What we have learned over the last 75 years is that there are two distinct ways to interpret the Bible on this topic: one that is more accepting and affirming of LGBTQ persons and one that excludes them from the life of the Church. There is not enough room here to provide a fair overview of those opinions. Suffice it to say that all major Christian denominations find themselves at odds over this issue. The goal of all Christians should be to learn the biblical and theological foundations progressives and conservatives use when making decisions about this topic. Living in the southeast United States, most of us have heard the conservative interpretation of this subject. Most people do not realize there is another faithful way to interpret the Bible. Here are a few websites that will provide a more detailed discussion of the progressive biblical view on LGBTQ inclusion. 



Above all in this conversation, let us remember Jesus’s words in Matthew 22-34:40               

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”