A Message from St. John Lutheran’s “Reconciling in Christ” Ministry Team
Who are we at St. John Lutheran?
St. John Lutheran Church’s website states that St. John Lutheran Church strives to be a community in Christ and so we celebrate diversity and a focus on unity through Jesus and his cross and resurrection. This means specifically that we welcome the diversity of race, national origin, age, gender, physical, mental and emotional condition or capacity, political perspective, personal history, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic or social situation. We as a community of Christ are strengthened through worship and learning so that together we can enter the other communities in our lives and share God’s grace. St. John Lutheran Congregation is therefore a congregation that strives together to share God’s love in the midst of diversity.
What is Reconciling in Christ?
Because St. John has striven to be Christ in Community, it has embraced the above welcoming statement, which is inclusive of God’s love for all. As a result, some members of St. John seek to make this message of hospitality better known not only in our congregation, but also to others outside of our church. Reconciling in Christ is a designation for ELCA congregations that suggests to its members and those beyond that it is indeed a welcoming congregation for all, especially for those people who normally do not feel welcome in churches, specifically people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who desire community in Christ.
Why be a Reconciling in Christ congregation?
Sadly, LGBT people continue to experience exclusion and harm from people who supposedly are acting in the name of Christianity. Even though some congregations say, “All are Welcome” they also believe that LGBT people need to stop being themselves in order to be truly welcome in their congregation. Reconciling in Christ proclaims love for all of God’s creation, especially those who have suffered discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Why does Reconciling in Christ matter?
In 2009 the ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a “Human Sexuality” statement which allowed for individual congregations to recognize same-sex relationships according to their consciences. The Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA was the first Reconciling in Christ Synod in the USA, but few congregations within the synod have embraced the designation. As a result, LGBT people in the area do not have confidence that congregations of our area are truly welcoming. St. John Lutheran has been an exception. It has been known as a welcoming congregation, and as a result has many LGBT members and families. In 2015, with the support of the church council, the church performed a gay marriage and continues to draw LGBT people in the area to its welcoming call by word of mouth. Still LGBT people do not know for certain if a Lutheran congregation is truly welcoming unless it has the Reconciling in Christ designation. The Reconciling in Christ committee seeks to make known to the members of St. John and the wider community that we are truly a welcoming community for all, especially those who have suffered alienation and harm because of their natural sexual orientation.
The following is the statement that the Reconciling in Christ Ministry Team drafted in June 2015. It was approved by St. John Council in July 2015. If the congregation adopts this statement of welcome, then we can be registered as a Reconciling In Christ congregation. Being an RIC congregation professes our willingness to affirm our LGBT friends in Christ.
We, the community of St. John Lutheran Church (ELCA), embrace the mystery of God’s love for all creation. As a gathering community of Christ we are called to live and be Christ in community. Living in grace, we strive to see Jesus shining in all people of any sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnic origin, age, economic reality, family status, diverse ability, or faith perspective. Through God’s embracing grace, we celebrate as full participants in the life and ministry of St. John Lutheran.
“… for all of you are one in Christ.” Galatians 3:28