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“All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to Godself through Christ
and who gave us the ministry of reconciling“ (2 Corinthians 5:18).
What is “Reconciling”?
Reconciling is the purpose of Christ and Christ’s imperfect-but-holy Church.
“They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
A Reconciling Congregation is one that embraces and works for the full participation of all people in the life of the local congregation. They also work for changes within the denomination for full inclusiveness and equal rights and privileges for all.
What does it mean to be a Reconciling Congregation and why is this necessary?
For centuries, the People Called [United] Methodists have shared with many other Christian traditions that they “welcome all people.” Nevertheless, implicit and explicit acts of exclusion were, and are, occurring frequently. Studies have shown that the overwhelming perception within the LGBTQIA+ community today is that they are not welcome in churches, and in many cases, have experienced blatant discrimination and harm within the church. Some of these were quite unintentional, while others were, sadly, not. We have found that stating “all people” is not enough anymore. Despite years of putting “all are welcome” on our church signs, an increasing portion of our society perceives Christians as (generally) exclusionary and (specifically) anti-gay and want no part of such a religion. We must give visibility to those who feel invisible–to those who have been taught that “all people” does NOT include them! Being a Reconciling Congregation makes explicit what was once ***maybe*** only implied.
Being a Reconciling United Methodist Congregation is our public statement calling out the inconsistencies in our denominational book of rules and doctrine, the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (see our other page to read more about our denomination’s stance). We openly disagree with official denominational statements which contain exclusionary language.
At this time, PEUMC, nor its minister, will deliberately violate current restrictions in the Book of Discipline, but openly advocate for change.
If Reconciling stands for “full inclusion,” why the focus on LGBTQIA+ language?
The reason LGBTQIA+ inclusion is at the forefront of Reconciling language is due to several reasons:
(1) It is at the forefront of our current dialogue within our denomination
and has caused both harm and confusion within and outside the church;
(2) it represents a constituency within our society that has been
most explicitly and widely excluded from the church; and
(3) it represents a constituency within our society that is statistically at higher risk of suicide
(4x more likely to attempt suicide).
Therefore, at its most basic, we simply want our LGBTQIA+ siblings to stay alive!
We are not attempting to put one group above others. However, it is necessary to be specific and intentional about naming LGBTQIA+ inclusion because Christian denominations, including the United Methodist Church, have been outwardly exclusionary of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. It is vital that we are most explicit in welcoming our LGBTQIA+ siblings to be a part of our congregation, and that they are people of sacred worth with equally valid callings by the Holy Spirit.
Is “Reconciling” the sole focus of our ministries?
No. But we believe our Reconciling status is a natural expression of our mission to “make, and be, disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of our community and the world.”
LGBTQIA+ persons can be, and are, disciples of Jesus Christ, too!
How does Reconciling fit within our heritage?
Rev. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in the 1700s, said that Methodists are to ‘think and let think.’ Another famous quote is often attributed to him: ‘In the essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.’ In his famous sermon, “Catholic/Universal Spirit,” Rev. John Wesley stated that a Methodist was one with a ‘catholic’ or ‘universal’ spirit: one who ‘gives their hand to all whose hearts are right with their heart’; who as ‘having an unspeakable tenderness for others, and longing for their welfare, ceasing not to commend them to God in prayer, as well as to plead their cause before humankind; who speaks comfortably to them, and labors to strengthen their hands in God. They assist them to the uttermost of their power in all things, spiritual and temporal. They are ready ‘to spend and be spent for them’; yea, to lay down their own life for other’s sake.’
Beyond our agreement on central Christian doctrine (primarily those words of Jesus Christ), Methodists can hold diverse opinions on all kinds of topics. We recognize that, whatever our differences, what binds us together as Christians is far more important than whatever might separate us.
How is being Reconciling a part of the DNA of Port Edwards UMC?
We are an “all kinds” church. Perhaps on the surface we may appear more alike than different but we strive to uncover more ways we are, in fact, very diverse. You’ll find people here across the spiritual, political, and social spectrum. We do not seek out uniformity, yet we request that all our members and guests seek unity in our endeavor to provide a safe and brave space for all people, especially those who have historically been voiceless and invisible.
In the face of our multiplicity, we still hold this in common: we believe that diversity is God’s good gift, and we celebrate it!
Am I not welcome here if I do not agree with this Reconciling Status?
Members and guests are not required to endorse (or sign) our Reconciling Statement as individuals. Our membership and baptismal vows remain exactly as they appear throughout our denomination. This is not a statement of 100% of the people, but a representation of, at least, the supermajority of our members. (Our Reconciling Status was adopted by a 90% affirmative vote). Nevertheless, a general attitude of respect toward our Status is expected from all our members and guests.
We do not require you to “believe” or “accept” any part of our Reconciling Statement as a requirement for inclusion. You are on a journey of faith unique to you. We *do* require all our members and guests to affirm the necessity of providing a safe and brave space for all. Providing such a space for all God’s people is our one necessary nonnegotiable. We each must begin by setting aside our personal opinions in our pursuit to treat each person with the dignity and self-worth they deserve. This is the DNA of the People Called Methodists. As we each move along our journeys of faith, we must continuously wrestle with our personal beliefs and how they may be contrary to the pursuit of full inclusion. It is expected that our constituents and members welcome this wrestling when it comes.
If you are at place in your faith journey where you do not see yourself supportive of a Reconciling congregation, nor have the “spiritual budget” to openly wrestle with the pursuit of full-inclusion, it would be a most mature response to seek another church home. This is not a statement of *in*hospitality. You *are* welcome here. But we recognize that some may feel themselves incompatible in such a setting, an environment that may be perceived as a hinderance to their worship and experience of God.
At PEUMC, we believe we are not truly the Church at worship until we break down all the barriers that hinder people to come to Christ’s Table of Plenty. Our prayer is that you can be a part of that!
How did PEUMC become a Reconciling Congregation and how does it seek to live into it?
In late 2017 and early 2018, we engaged in prayer, study, and dialogue regarding the concerns of everyone in the church. We focused on understanding the historical and cultural contexts of those 7 “clobber” verses in the Bible that are often used to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ persons. An all-church vote was held. We are proud to say that the congregation overwhelmingly agreed to be a Reconciling congregation (90% affirmative vote).
In early 2022, we sought affiliation with Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN).
Our 2023 goal is to continue our pursuit to live more fully into our status. We have vowed to engage ourselves in educational opportunities to help us understand more clearly the various aspects of full inclusion, such as, (a) physical barriers that exclude, (b) subtle & unintentional but exclusionary language we use, (c) understanding what the parts of “LGBTQIA+” means, (d) how to use preferred pronouns and why, (e) and other ethical “etiquettes” necessary to providing a safe and brave space. The list goes on. We will strive to provide learning opportunities led by experts in the field of diversity, while also including minority voices. This is, we acknowledge, a lifelong journey of becoming.
What is the Reconciling Ministries Network?
RMN is an organization dedicated to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in both the policy and practices of the United Methodist Church. In more recent years, it has appropriately expanded its language to include “intersectionality.” Intersectionality is defined as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.” To understand this better, imagine students in an elementary school class being asked to make a list of everything that describes themselves (the multiple ways with which they identity). The class stands up and gathers in groups according to sex, then in new groups according to eye color, then move around according to ethnicity, etc. In life, each person experiences social structures slightly differently because their multiple identities overlap. Sometimes a person can suffer under multiple sources of oppression. Therefore, sweeping generalizations about the struggle or power of a particular social group fail to recognize that individuals in that group also belong to other social groups and may experience other forms of marginalization. In other words, an “LGBTQIA+ person” is not the sole identifier of that individual, but only one among numerous others; some forms of identity give power, others bring abuse. Such a person may also be a Veteran, a person with alcohol use disorder, a person with dyslexia, a person of great affluence, etc. So while the language of “inclusion” has historically been, and continues to be, with a focus on LGBTQIA+ affirmation, it has now appropriately expanded to mean “full inclusion” in the fullest sense of the phrase. The language of intersectionality reminds us that we are highly complex beings with “messy-yet-beautiful” lives.
Are other congregations or ministries in Wisconsin also part of the Reconciling network?
Yes! We are proud to stand with many congregations in Wisconsin, the Midwest, throughout the U.S., and even around the world who are also Reconciling. An interactive map of all Reconciling congregations can be found on rmnetwork.org/find. A list (as of 10/2022) of all the WI Reconciling churches can be found on our website. CLICK HERE and scroll to the bottom.
What does LGBTQIA+ mean?
L – lesbian
G – gay
B – bisexual
T – transgender
Q – queer or questioning
I – intersex
A – asexual (some may add here: ‘ally’)
+ indicates further inclusivity
Further explanation of LGBTQIA+:
*NOTE: Many of the definitions below have been simplified for those to whom this is all brand new information. Many of these terms can easily become highly complex, nuanced, and even scientific. Some may argue that simplifying does a disservice to those who use these identities. Please understand what is described below as imperfect, introductory-level definitions. We invite you to research these terms further.
Bisexuality – the capacity to form attraction of a sexual or romantic nature toward men and women. Similar to ‘bisexuality’ is Pansexuality; this term avoids binary language (men/women); it is the capacity to form attraction toward more than one gender.
Transgender – those whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with the sex declared at their birth; colloquially understood as being ‘born in the wrong body’ or ‘assigned the wrong sex at birth.’ Those who feel at odds with their bodies/gender is called “gender dysphoria,” which means “a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a perceived mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.” Some choose to undergo sex reassignment surgery or take hormones, but this is not expected of all. Those who desire medical assistance to transition from one sex to another *may* identify as transsexual. There are several variations to the usage of the term ‘transgender’ and special care should be taken to respect an individual’s use of the term, or variations of it, as they self-identify (like genderqueer). Sometimes a transgender person changes their name and chooses specific pronouns as part of their gender transition. Their former name is referred to as their “dead name.”
Queer – can be used broadly to describe anyone who is part of the larger LGBTQIA+ community; specifically, it is used of those who identify outside binary categories (male-female language). Similarly, ‘Q’ can stand for ‘questioning‘ and can describe those who are not sure of their identity at the present moment. ‘Queer’ was once a derogatory term that has been widely reclaimed by those who identify by it. However, it is not universally accepted and may still cause harm to those who hear it only in its historically-harmful manner. Do not be alarmed when someone uses ‘queer’ as their identity.
Intersex – those who are born with several sex characteristics that “do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies” (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights). This may include chromosome patterns, gonads, or genitals. About 0.02% to 0.05% of babies are born with ambiguous genitals; the previous term, going out of use, was ‘hermaphrodite.’ Sometimes, this often means that doctors and parents must make an ambivalent choice at the time of birth.
Asexual – or “nonsexual”; someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction. They typically do not actively pursue sexual relationships with other people. Like other terms listed above, ‘asexual’ may mean different things to different people. Within this category is someone who is ‘demisexual’–someone who experiences sexual attraction only with those whom they experience a deep connection.
Ally – a straight and cisgender person who actively supports the LGBTQIA+ community.
Cisgender – those who identity with the sex declared at birth (a.k.a: non-transgender).
Non-Binary language – understands sexuality and gender as a spectrum, as opposed to strict male/female categories.
Preferred Pronouns – aligning the use of pronouns (he/him/his–she/her/hers–them/they/theirs–any combination of these–or new ones) to a person’s gender and sexual identity. Some choose no pronouns but wish to called by their given/chosen first name.
Sex vs. Gender
Sex – (in traditional binary language: male and female) – refers to biological and physiological aspects: reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones, etc. A person’s sex is assigned at birth based on tangible characteristics, mostly, genitalia. Sometimes what’s seen on the outside is not consistent with what’s felt on the inside.
Gender – (in traditional binary language: masculine and feminine) – refers to socially constructed characteristics; norms concerning roles, behaviors, and attributes that a society considers appropriate or acceptable for men and women.
Kinsey Scale – known as the Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, is one of the oldest and most widely used scales to describe sexual orientation. Though outdated, the Kinsey Scale was groundbreaking at the time. It was among the first models to suggest that sexuality isn’t a binary of hetero- or homosexuality. The Kinsey Scale acknowledges that many people are not exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual–but that sexual attraction can fall somewhere in the middle along a spectrum.
THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPHS ARE PROVIDED TO HELP P.E.U.M.C. BECOME THE SAFE AND BRAVE SPACE WE SEEK TO BE . . .
Using appropriate language (“El-Gee-Bee-Tee-Cue”)
Terms once used derogatorily (like “gay” or “queer”) are, to a large extent, reclaimed and used safely if a person self-identifies as such. This reminds us that the precision of language continues to be important, because it changes with the times. Terminologies are still a work in progress; then again, *we* are a work in progress.
“H*mo” and “f*g” are never acceptable terms. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are also considered sexual minorities.
When referring to the whole community of sexual minorities, the “gay community” is not your best phrase of choice, since it does not give voice to the other expressions of sexuality and gender. “LGBTQIA+ community” (which can be acceptably shortened to “LGBTQ”) is most appropriate. Of those letters, the + is one of the most important. LGBTQ is an initialism which seeks to represent the various expressions of sexual minorities. The + reminds us that terms do change over time. Letters have been added over the years.
However, one must remember that we must always begin with the terms a person uses to identify themselves. We do not seek to impose our terms onto them. We accept the terms they use, even if it is unfamiliar to us or has once been used derogatorily in the past. Like “LGBTQ”, the ways we identify can be a fluid process. For many people, it is their own personal journey of becoming.
Lastly, using appropriate language does not need to be understood as often-detested “political correctness.” This is not about being “politically correct.” It’s about being pastoral and a decent human being. It’s about being Christ-like in our attitude toward others. In the end, everyone wants to be seen, heard, and understood.
Important Don’ts To Keep in Mind to Provide a Safe and Brave Space:
(1) It is no longer appropriate to ask a person if they are married. This was once a polite conversation starter. It can be subtly embarrassing or harmful; there are many reasons why someone can’t or personal reasons why they don’t. It’s equally inappropriate to ask if someone has a family of their own. This is often asked innocently and politely but can be perceived as a source of judgment.
(2) It is very inappropriate to tell someone that they need “to find themselves a nice girl/boy.” It is no longer appropriate to expect everyone to date or to be married. It is equally inappropriate to play matchmaker with young members of the church, including the pastor. Church is no longer the dating scene it used to be. Pressuring young adults to “hurry up and find someone” is never appropriate.
(3) It is most inappropriate to “out” someone before they are ready. It would be inappropriate to call such a person by a term they have not used first for themselves, nor is it appropriate to try to help them “figure themselves out” (unless you are their parents or guardians). Be mindful that if someone “comes out” to you, it may not necessarily mean they are “out” publicly.
(4) It is understandable to be confused with terminology, especially as it changes over the years. And while you must give yourself, and others, grace when there is a slip-up, it is the duty of a Reconciling and Inclusive Congregation to familiarize itself with the most current and acceptable language, and to be diligent to limit any mistakes. Saying, “But that’s what we used to call people like you back in the day,” is gravely unacceptable. We must use language appropriate for today.
(5) When interacting with a transgender person, the use of names and pronouns are particularly important. Former names (known as their “dead name”) and former pronouns (she/her/hers or he/him/his, etc.) are never to be used. Their current name and pronouns must be used exclusively. Be calmly polite if you accidently use their former name or pronoun. Never say, “You’ll always be sweet little Jessica to me.” Sometimes the use of these former identities can be harmful. Much like hearing the name of a deceased loved one dropped unexpectedly and casually into a conversation can be devasting, so may the casual use of a person’s former name, if that name represents a painful part of that person’s life. Additionally, saying “She is now a man” demonstrates another error. “She” is in reference to who this person was and is no longer. It is often best to eliminate pronouns and simply say the person’s new name: “Jared is now a man” or better yet “Jared as come to discover that Jared is a man.” To be a safe and brave space, we must remember to use a person’s preferred name and pronouns at all times.