As the name implies, the Social Concerns Committee of First UMC, Oak Ridge, oversees our congregation’s efforts to address social justice issues in our church, denomination, community, state, nation, and world. Since our group is unable to address all issues of injustice, we select a handful of pressing topics each year and strive to help members of our church and local community discuss and take reasonable and appropriate steps in response to those topics.
In 2022, our congregation focused a great deal of energy and time on discussing whether or not to affiliate with 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. In November and December of 2022, our congregation voted with a 90% approval to join the RMN.
“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.”
– Reconciling Ministries Network
In 2023, our Social Concerns Committee will focus on three primary issues:
Living into our Welcome Statement
The RMN vote was an important step on our journey as a congregation but not our destination. We must now living into our Welcome Statement, which reads:
At First Church, we embrace Jesus’ message that God loves and accepts every person. Therefore, we welcome all to share in the life and ministry of this community of faith. Our welcome knows no boundaries of age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, economic condition, physical ability or mental ability.
Our Committee will be working to determine how inclusive we currently are; work to make FUMCOR more welcoming to LGBTQIA+ folks; offer educational opportunities for our congregation; represent our church at the Knoxville Pride event; send a liaison to PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gay Youth); support safe havens for battered/abused LGBTQIA+ people; and coordinate programs with other reconciling ministry congregations in the community.
Oversee a “Beloved Community: Local Solutions to America’s Divisions” Grant
We are working in conjunction with Rev. Annette Flynn, President of the Oak Ridge/Anderson County NAACP and Rev. David Allred of High Places Community Church to bridge racial divisions in our community.
Sponsor “Coffee, Dessert, and Difficult Conversations”
In the past, our Committee has sponsored these church-wide events which aim at encouraging Christian dialogue on difficult topics. As followers of Jesus, we must be able to have meaningful conversations and choose to show love toward one another even when we disagree.