Reconciling Committee Charge Conference Report 2007
PSUMC has had a strong and active reconciling ministry in the past year, both through its own programs and initiatives and through participation in a growing conference-wide movement.
Last December PSUMC members pledged their support to the Church of the Village’s LGBTQ homeless youth shelter project. Thirteen of us joined Church of the Village people in repairing and preparing the shelter space; about 10 people took part in training sessions for the shelter, and a core of half dozen volunteered regularly in overnight shifts at the shelter throughout the winter. Staffing of the shelter has since been assumed by professionals and support for the project shifted to donations of toiletries and food. We are renewing discussions with the Church of the Village and planning on offering material support.
PSUMC has also played a major role in Methodists in New Directions (MIND), the conference-wide reconciling organization that grew in part out of activism initiated and nurtured by PSUMC. MIND’s chair is Dorothee Benz , who also served as PSUMC’s Reconciling Committee chair until this fall. Jim Harvey also serves on the MIND steering committee. Forty three PSUMC members joined MIND during its initial membership drive, and in the last two weeks 77 PSUMC members have signed on to MIND’s open letter to the church on marriage equality.
The emergence of MIND has meant that some activities previously initiated or organized by PSUMC are now coordinated by MIND and joined by far more people than before. Most notably, organizing the annual conference reconciling witness has now been assumed by MIND. PSUMC members continue to play an active role in that work. The reconciling presence at the 2007 annual conference meeting included a very successful luncheon, attended by over 200 people and featuring Beth Stroud ; the annual armband witness during the ordination ceremony; a coordinated T-shirt day (“Closed Doors. Broken Hearts. We mind.”); and more. Eight PSUMC members were among the dozens of MIND activists that made all this happen.
PSUMC once again organized a visible presence at Gay Pride events during Gay Pride month. We had a table during the Brooklyn Pride festival and marched in the Brooklyn Pride March. We took out an ad in the Brooklyn Pride Guide. And we had the biggest PSUMC contingent ever at the Manhattan Gay Pride march, more than two dozen people joining at least two dozen from other UMC churches. The large conference-wide turnout was once again a result of MIND’s coordinating role, and MIND also initiated and publicized two Pride services, once at PSUMC and one at SPSA, preceding the June 24 march.
PSUMC members distributed thousands of our palm cards during Gay Pride events (the cards have inclusive Bible verses on one side and our holy union policy on the other) and have continued to publicize our holy union policy to neighborhood and queer communities. In the past several years we developed a basic communications infrastructure to carry our message of inclusivity beyond our doors: we wrote language describing and promoting the holy union policy, which is printed on the back of each Sunday’s bulletin and hangs on a sign on the fence in front of the church; we use the same language in our ads and on the back of the palm cards. The palm cards themselves are by now an established vehicle, distributed throughout neighborhood bars, cafes, bookstores and more, and at the Gay Community Center. At the heart of this mission effort is our commitment to letting queer folks know that bigotry they’ve experienced from organized religion is a betrayal of the true message of the Gospel: love for all of God’s children and defense of the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized of society.
The visibility of our work in the community continues to attract media attention. This past year PSUMC’s holy union policy was featured in an article in Metro and three PSUMC members were included in an article in the Brooklyn Paper on LGBT people in faith communities.
As 2007 draws towards a close, PSUMC reconciling activism, particularly through MIND initiatives and programs, is strong; but the congregation also faces a challenge. After three years as chair of the committee, Dorothee Benz stepped down as of this fall and no one has been willing to step into this leadership role, despite six months of efforts by the Leadership Development Committee to find someone.