News & Events

My Lutheran Faith Community Performs Same Gender Weddings!

LGBTmarriage
ReconcilingWorks is already getting calls about Lutheran congregations who will be providing marriages for couples affected by this ruling.

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2015 ELCA Youth Gathering: Our Rainbow Proclamation

ReconcilingWorks Staff hold up youth gathering signs
 
"Beloved, Child of God, In God's Image, Unique, Authentic." These are just some of the affirming messages that ReconcilingWorks will be sending to the over 30,000 youth at the 2015 ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit, Michigan.
 
Rainbow SignageOur most colorfully extravagant year ever, the theme of this year's ReconcilingWorks booth is "Find another word." Our invitation is simple: let's use language that includes rather than excludes, is constructive instead of destructive, and gives worth and dignity to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. 
 
Our booth fits well with the theme of theProclaim Community, the Youth Gathering's outside organization space this year. What is our rainbow proclamation? "We are one in Christ!"
 
Ryan Muralt, ReconcilingWorks Program and Development Associate, will be leading our efforts in Detroit along with Merton Spencer, US-6 Regional Coordinator, and many terrific local volunteers.
 
"We're very excited to bring an extravagant welcoming presence to the Youth Gathering," Ryan said. "It is important that we specifically listed gay, lesbian, queer, bisexual, and transgender identities on our signage to ensure young people who hold those identities know they are not only visible, but embraced."
 
Do you know a young person attending the 2015 Youth Gathering? You can make a gift in their honor by clicking here. Make sure you select "In honor of" in the gift type and put name in the "Details" field.
 
Make a gift in honor of a youth

ReconcilingWorks responds to ELCA pastoral letter regarding Supreme Court decision

RWKS scotus ELCA

RWKS response ELCA SCOTUS"As the nation celebrates the recent Supreme Court ruling granting the freedom to marry in all fifty states, ReconcilingWorks yearns for a time when the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will find a way to speak clearly, without reservation or caveat, about the dignity and value of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) lives as they are lived out in relationship and in family. We covet the day when the Church embraces in holiness and into wholeness people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions by boldly naming them as Beloved. We look forward to a world without outcasts, when all are strengthened for authentic, visible, faithful lives." 

Read more from the letter here.

ReconcilingWorks Rejoices at Supreme Court Decisions on the Freedom to Marry

ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation responds with joy to today's Supreme Court decision on the freedom to marry.

ReconcilingWorks applauds the court's decision to recognize the fundamental right for all people to have equal access to marriage. For the first time, the U.S. government, working through the Supreme Court, has recognized categorically committed, loving relationships of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are equal and should have equal protection under the law in all states and the District of Columbia.

Obergefell v. Hodges, as the case is known, represents a milestone on the road to fuller participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in society. Writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy said “[T]he Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of the Nation’s social order. . . . There is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to this principle, yet same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage and are consigned to an instability many opposite-sex couples would find intolerable. It is demeaning to lock same-sex couples out of a central institution of the Nation’s society, for they too may aspire to the transcendent purposes of marriage.”

SCOTUS 2015aWe believe the court’s ruling is a blessing to society and the church. Recognizing the freedom to marry for all is good for the flourishing for people and families. Marriage is a way for committed couples who choose to exchange lifelong promises of mutual responsibility to care for and support each other, through the peaks and valleys of life, asking friends, family, and, in many cases, their faith communities, to support them and hold them accountable. Marriage also helps provide for legal and social structures in which these relationships are lived out.

For Lutherans, marriage and family life is a vocation, one of the ways God does God’s work in us and through us for the sake of the world.

“Today is a day for the history books, and has left my heart filled with indescribable joy! However, this is not where the story and history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer liberation and equity ends,” said Aubrey Thonvold, Executive Director of ReconcilingWorks. “Today marks a tremendous milestone on the journey of justice. We give thanks to all those would have courageously supported and worked for the freedom to marry in our country. With a full heart, I give thanks for this day and fix my eyes on tomorrow knowing LGBTQ history is still being written.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has yet to endorse the freedom to marry for LGBT couples, although its 2009 social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009) has declared support for "legislation and policies to protect civil rights" for all people and has committed to "attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law" for all people, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families.

The ELCA has allowed marriages for LGBT couples in ELCA congregations in states where legal since 2009, but the denomination does not provide a liturgical resource for marriage ceremonies that are inclusive of LGBT couples.

ReconcilingWorks celebrates today’s court decision as a great step forward.  However, our organization recognizes the freedom to marry will not be enough to dismantle injustices based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, ethnicity, and other social categories.

Together striving side by side people of faith must continue to courageously work in the church and society for justice and equity for LGBT people and families. For example: recently, in Indiana, Louisiana, and North Carolina, legal developments have allowed for egregious discrimination against LGBT people, essentially empowering individuals, business, and state agencies to claim that any number of laws and regulations do not apply to them, as long as they appeal to a “sincerely held religious belief.”

Grave injustices remain in public housing, health care, voting rights, immigration, the prison system, and elsewhere. Violence against LGBT people, especially transgender people and LGBT people of color, happens every day.

We look forward to our continued partnership in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation, proclaiming good news to the poor, release to the captives, and freedom for the oppressed (Luke 4:18). 


LGBTmarriage
ReconcilingWorks is already getting calls about Lutheran congregations who will be providing marriages for couples affected by this ruling. To date ReconcilingWorks has tracked if a congregation provides blessing services. Now ReconcilingWorks will also start tracking if a congregation provides marriages for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) couples. Regardless of your faith community's Reconciling in Christ (RIC) status, if you provide marriage services, please fill out this form so ReconcilingWorks staff can provide up-to-date and accurate information for LGBT couples who are inquiring. RIC setting info will be added to the setting's public profile. Non-RIC congregations info will be held in house and used only by ReconcilingWorks.

On our Reconciling in Christ webpage, mar is the icon used to show congregations who do LGBT marriage services. If your congregation does LGBT weddings, and you do not have an icon next to your name, fill out this Google form to be added to the list. NOTE: If a congregation does not have the icon next to their name, it may mean the congregation has not yet indicated so to us. Individual Lutheran clergy (in, between, or out of calls) are welcome to indicate that they will perform LGBT weddings. Just fill out the top portion of this form (your contact information) and leave the lower part blank (your faith community's information). We will share this list as individuals needing wedding services inquire.

 

PA Bishops Support LGBT Anti-Discrimination Bill

Lutheran Advocacy PA: http://www.lutheranadvocacypa.org/pa-bishops-support-anti-discrimination-bill/

Harrisburg, PA — The seven Pennsylvania bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America released a letter June 18 in support of legislation that would amend the Pennsylvania Public Relations Act to prohibit discrimination in areas of employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Read the letter

“At this moment there is an opportunity for us to add our voices in support of a piece of legislation that could provide continuing legal protection for one particularly vulnerable group of our people,” the bishops state in the letter “In Support of Fairness for All Pennsylvanians.”

The letter anticipates introduction of legislation to update the 1955 Human Relations Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the list of groups of people who are provided legal protection from discrimination.  Several ELCA synods in Pennsylvania, meeting in assembly, took action to add increased capacity to the voices of those who support this legislation.

The letter points to the imagery of the “peaceable kingdom,” described in Isaiah 11:6, in which “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”

The words anticipate a renewal of all creation in which the identity of each creature remains but none experiences any harm from the others.

“It is the fulfillment of this vision for which people of faith yearn, and toward which they call their neighbors,” the bishops say in the letter. “The work of public advocacy, at its best, replaces the timid silence of resignation to what is, with a bold voice giving expression to what could be...  Members of our congregations who have experienced discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity have told their stories of being particularly vulnerable to harm in public settings.  They are not alone, of course.  Many of our people have experienced bullying because of physical attributes that make them targets.  Many have suffered indignity and humiliation because their way of living stands out as different.  Many know the spiritual pain of rejection and scorn because of their religious convictions.  There seems to be no lack of occasion for people of faith to speak a bold word of comfort and protective welcome to those who suffer harm.”

South Carolina RIC Congregation Featured in GLAAD Documentary

ReconcilingWorks is proud to share "GLAAD Presents: State of Change -- South Carolina," GLAAD's new mini-documentary that examines the triumphs and tribulations of South Carolina's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

It prominently features the Reconciling in Christ program and Reformation Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC around the 6:30 minute mark. Reformation made news last Fall when Pastor Tim Bupp announced the congregation's plans to be one of the first to perform LGBT weddings as the freedom to marry became legal in the Palmetto state.

The 20-minute film was produced as part of GLAAD's Southern Stories program and is the first in a six-part series of short documentaries that aim to accelerate acceptance of LGBT people living in the American South.

 

Welcome Aubrey Thonvold ReconcilingWorks Executive Director

Recently, I have been asked: How do I help my congregation have a conversation around marriage? (Short answer: slowly.) What are these so-called “religious freedom” bills and why are they so bad? I mean, don’t we all want to be “free” to practice our religion? (Very short answer: discrimination in the name of religion is still discrimination.) We are a newly married gay couple, but there is some unspoken unease in our congregation. How can we help change that? (Short answer: by being you, and congratulations!) I think I understand “gay” and “lesbian,” but I don’t understand “transgender.” Are transgender people made in God’s image too? (Short answer: absolutely yes!)

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Life at the Intersection | Commercials

"Sometimes, you just have to say and do something!"

Some of you may be aware that in this present stage of my life, I work as an actor. I have been fortunate enough to be cast in two national commercials over the past nine months, and one of them is “on the air” now. I am also a proud member of SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). So I was surprised, saddened and greatly disappointed when I read that the Rev. Franklin Graham called for a boycott of Wells Fargo Bank because of a commercial featuring a partnered female couple learning sign language so they could adopt, and communicate with more fully, a new daughter.  Graham said,

“Wells Fargo Bank is using a same-sex couple in their advertising. And there are more. But it has dawned on me that we don’t have to do busin

ess with them. At the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we are moving our accounts from Wells Fargo to another bank.”

Yes, commercials are meant to encourage you to “buy into” something, but the best commercials also are a hopeful and healthy reflection of our society, and the “Wells Fargo – Learning Sign Language” commercial does just that, as does the series of Wells Fargo ads released in the past six weeks. So, I realized between my disappointment and tears, I had to do something. I drove to the nearest Wells Fargo Bank, told the banker why I was there, and opened a new checking account. Then I went back home, looked at the ad a few more times, watched the ad I’m in, and clicked “Like” each time I watched the ads.

Dear ReconcilingWorks Friends in Christ, I encourage you to go and do something to affirm the Wells Fargo commercial, for from where I stand, saying  “no” to that ad is just like saying “no” to the ad I did, and also like saying “no” to our best selves as we seek to build the beloved community. See them for yourselves.

The ad I’m in is on YouTube - type in “Enjoy Illinois – Grandpa.” (Both of these ads have exceeded one million views on YouTube – thanks be to God!)

By the way, for the first time, the Chicago SAG-AFTRA Local will be marching in the Gay Pride Parade on June 28, and I will be there!  May God give us strength and courage this day and always!

In peace, love, and joy, Michael

 

Life at the Intersection | Baltimore

Life at the Intersection

Baltimore, Maryland is my “home away from home.”

For five years, Baltimore was my home. I learned how to be a musician and teacher at Peabody Institute, learned how to live “on my own” with a lot of help from friends and neighbors, and taught in the Baltimore City Public Schools for one delightful year. On Thursday, April 23, I was back in “B’more” to attend an Alumni Reunion, and I stopped by one of my favorite “hangouts”: Ted’s Music Store, on East Centre Street. The present owner greeted me warmly as I looked over the four trombones that were on display. I was pleased that the store, after forty years, was in good and capable hands.

Four days later, in the rage and unrest that followed Freddie Gray’s funeral, Ted’s Music Store was damaged and looted.

My heart sank, and I felt trapped. In the town where I learned about harmony on a host of levels, disharmony reigned for a moment. I then realized when lives are stolen, destruction, violence and stealing property seems to be a reasonable option. Many reasonable people have said we need to have a conversation about race. That is all well and good, but it seems to me that any useful conversation needs to begin with trust. How might we cultivate and build trust in our communities?

Our upcoming ReconcilingWorks Assembly “Until All Are Free,” will be an opportunity to try out the temperaments and tools for building and cultivating trust. I will be facilitating a workshop on “Building the Beloved Community” at this event. Feel free to come, let’s build together – and, see you at the intersections!

Michael L. Cobbler, Board Chair of Committee Working at the Intersection of Oppressions

MN Lutherans Against "License to Discriminate" Laws

OutFront MN Direct Action

ReconcilingWorks recently participated in OutFront Minnesota's Lobby Day, and in a direct action, marched to Minnesota Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt's office asking him to stop allowing bills that hurt LGBT people, their families, and black lives.

Bulletin InsertFAQsLetter to the editor

As Lutherans, our faith teaches us to love God and love our neighbor, it is not our place to judge, and to treat others the way we want to be treated. While outrage grows over potential discrimination allowed by religious refusal laws in Indiana and other states, Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that is designed to roll back the anti-discrimination protections LGBTQ Minnesotans have enjoyed since we passed the Human Rights Acts in 1993, under the guise of protecting the "religious freedom" of business owners — and government employees — to refuse to provide services that have any connection to marriages for same-sex couples, including rental housing.

This bill, SF 2158, was introduced today by Sen. Paul Gazelka (R - Baxter).

We are calling you, as clergy and members of congregations in Minnesota, to speak out. Your state and community need to hear from people of faith on this issue.

  • We ask that you talk with your families, friends, and congregation members to let them know how your love for God and your neighbor leads you to advocate—in civil life, in teaching, in preaching.
  • We encourage you to let your community know discrimination is wrong by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • We suggest that educational forums be presented in your congregations and synods.
  • Please let us know what action you take by sending email to Tim Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The 1991 ELCA social statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, provides a firm foundation for advocating in the public sphere, stressing the Christian’s “responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life” and to “recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

RFRA btn web

Additionally, we highlight the ELCA’s commitments made in the 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, declaring its support for “legislation and policies to protect civil rights” for all and, in our call to “welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families” to also “attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law.”

Please join us in the work to ensure all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Texans are able to live free of discrimination.

Please let us know how we can support you in your work of living out our Lutheran values.

Your partners in the work for equality,

Tim Fisher
ReconcilingWorks: Lutherans for Full Participation
Saint Paul, Minnesota
651.665.0861 

P.S. Please let us know what action you take by sending email to Tim Fisher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Gettysburg Seminary Becomes RIC

gettysburg

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, a seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, has been designated as Reconciling in Christ (RIC). Gettysburg joins Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, as the fourth ELCA seminary to become RIC.

This means half of all ELCA seminaries are now RIC!

More information will come in the next Concord newsletter. Also, see the seminary’s news release here: http://www.ltsg.edu/about-us/news/2015/reconciling-in-christ

Deepening and Expanding the RIC Program During Times of Transition

 
Regional Coordinator (RC) Retreat:
April 10 – 12th ReconcilingWorks regional coordinators (RC) gathered from across the country for a weekend of renewal and visioning as ReconcilingWorks continues to live into the mission of creating welcome, inclusion, and equity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and families. Regional Coordinators, staff and Board Co-Chair Mike Crandall worked to create strategic, ambitious, and measurable goals that strive to deepen and expand the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) program.
René García
“The regional coordinators' retreat was transformative and inspiring; a Lutheran ‘revival’ for bridge builders working in the field to expand and magnify welcoming to all people.  I am especially thankful to all of the ReconcilingWorks supporters whose financial gifts helped bring us into the same room to be gathered, equipped, and sent back into the world committed to continue this ministry of reconciliation!”
 
–Rene Garcia
Houston, TX
Regional Coordinator for Region US-4
Paul JollyKaren Jolly“Paul and I were connected to the RC retreat only by speaker phone. While we could hear MOST of what went on, it was obvious from the start that this retreat is going to reap great rewards! The joy, laughter, gaiety and trust in the room was felt all the way to us in Oregon. This time together to renew and refresh is exactly what regional coordinators need on a regular basis.”
 
–Karen and Paul Jolly
Portland, OR
Co-Lead Regional Coordinators
Mike Crandall“It was inspiring to plan, dream, brainstorm, and get to know the regional coordinators. The RCs are the most direct and personal connection ReconcilingWorks has with members, congregations, synods, and chapters. Even though the geography and numbers are large – these talented and faithful ‘bridge builders’ are changing lives and the church”
 
–Mike Crandall
Dallas TX,
Board of Directors Co-Chair
 
ReconcilingWorks is committed to investing in the Reconciling in Christ program as it is a cornerstone in the organization’s identity.
 
Time of Transition:
 
Tim FeiertagAs ReconcilingWorks continues to strive for financial sustainability, the organization announces its final staff layoff. We thank Tim Feiertag for his three years on staff. Tim’s leadership has helped to shape the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) program and has trained hundreds of people who have attended the Building an Inclusive Church (BIC) training nationally and internationally.
 
“What a privilege it has been to oversee the Reconciling in Christ program the past three years. I am convinced that these congregations and faith communities will be seen as leaders in the ELCIC, ELCA, and beyond, as communities who know and live out the importance of preaching God's radical love within the public sphere, not only for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, but to anyone who needs a specific word of welcome to know that God's love includes them” says Tim. 
 
“I know that God will continue to bless us all through the ministry of ReconcilingWorks, and I pray that generous hearts will fund this ministry, allowing it to respond to the immense need which still exists.”
 
ReconcilingWorks holds Tim in our prayers as he continues to seek a call to ordained ministry within the ELCA.  
 
WELCOME Leo Bancroft – New Region 1 Regional Coordinator
 
ReconcilingWorks is thrilled to announce the new member of the Regional Coordinator team. A Regional Coordinator is a bridge builder who believes all are God’s beloved, the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts called by Jesus Christ to work for justice.
 
Leo BancroftLeo Channing Bancroft (He/him), returned home to Oregon in 2009, after earning a Master of Arts in Theology in Berkeley, CA. While his day job involves solving technical problems, his passion is advocacy for both the HIV and LGBTQ communities. He is active in his congregation, St. Andrew Lutheran, as well as the Portland Metro Chapter of ReconcilingWorks, and enjoys training, preaching, and sharing his story to help make the church a safe and welcoming space. In September 2013, Leo came out publicly as transgender (FTM – female to male). He is transitioning surgically and hormonally, sharing that process publicly with gratitude to those who have lived “out” lives before him, whether with their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.
Leo Channing Bancroft
Regional Coordinator for Region US-1

ReconcilingWorks Statement on Anti-LGBT "License to discriminate" Laws

RFRA btn webFor over 40 years, ReconcilingWorks has worked for the welcome, inclusion and equity of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran Communion and society. Our Lutheran faith shapes and informs our beliefs that God values and embraces each person as a beloved child, that the Spirit gives a diversity of gifts for the common good, and that Jesus Christ calls us to work for justice. On these grounds, ReconcilingWorks opposes and will work to defeat laws creating broad, harmful religious exemptions for private business owners, government employees and landlords, such as was recently passed in Indiana, that undermine existing legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. Such laws violate both our Christian values and people’s right to equal protection under the law.

ReconcilingWorks calls on state lawmakers to provide full, statewide protections against discrimination of LGBT people.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), to whom ReconcilingWorks most directly relates, has taken strong stances in opposition to discrimination in housing, employment, and services due to sexual orientation. In its 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, the ELCA declared its support for “legislation and policies to protect civil rights” for all and, in our call to “welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families” to also “attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law.”

ReconcilingWorks believes freedom means freedom for everyone.  As Christians, we are called to love God and love our neighbor and to treat others as we would want to be treated. Religion should never be used as an excuse to discriminate or refuse to follow the law.

Please join us in the work to ensure all LGBT people, no matter where they live, are free from discrimination.

Lutherans Against "License to Discriminate" Laws

RFRA btn web

As Lutherans, our faith teaches us to love God and love our neighbor, it is not our place to judge, and to treat others the way we want to be treated. While outrage grows over potential discrimination allowed by religious refusal laws in Indiana and other states, Texas lawmakers are considering at least 20 bills in the current legislative session that would subject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to discrimination and even criminal prosecution.

We are calling you, as clergy and members of congregations in Texas, to speak out. Your state and community need to hear from people of faith on this issue.

☻ We ask that you talk with your families, friends, and congregation members to let them know how your love for God and your neighbor leads you to advocate—in civil life, in teaching, in preaching.

☻ We encourage you to let your community know discrimination is wrong by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.

☻ We suggest that educational forums be presented in your congregations and synods.

The 1991 ELCA social statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, provides a firm foundation for advocating in the public sphere, stressing the Christian’s “responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being, and good order in public life” and to “recognize the vital role of law in protecting life and liberty and in upholding the common good.”

Additionally, we highlight the ELCA’s commitments made in the 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, declaring its support for “legislation and policies to protect civil rights” for all and, in our call to “welcome, care for, and support same-gender couples and their families” to also “attend to the need for equal protection, equal opportunities, and equal responsibilities under the law.”

Please join us in the work to ensure all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Texans are able to live free of discrimination.

Bulletin InsertFAQsLetter to the editor

Preparing to Live into the Present and the Future

It doesn’t take more than turning on the news, opening a paper, or reading an online article to learn the freedom to marry for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people will soon have a national verdict. Over twenty years of dedicated movement-building has brought America to this moment, and while it will be a great victory, it is one of many that need to be won in order to make welcome and equality a lived experience for LGBT people and their families.

ReconcilingWorks knows this movement-building well. We have paved the way for over 500 Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregations to publicly welcome people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. We worked to bring policy change to the ELCA in 2009 so that people in same-gender relationships may serve as rostered leaders. We have provided a witness to faith and justice in the ongoing movement for the freedom to marry.

Yet we know the conversation and work of living out the welcome and inclusion of LGBT people within the church is only just beginning. We see evidence of this in the need for the ELCA to convene a Working Group on how to minster to same-gender couples and families. We see evidence in the fact that only five percent of ELCA and ELCIC congregations are RIC. And we see it in the upwards of eighteen states whose legislatures are considering bills that would allow corporations and businesses to deny goods and services to LGBT people based on personally, deeply held religious beliefs.

As the landscape of our culture and our Lutheran communions shift and change, so must ReconcilingWorks. Our mission has been and will remain to embody, inspire, advocate, and organize for the acceptance and full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the Lutheran communion and its ecumenical and global partners, striving to dismantle injustice and oppression. We will continue to work with church leaders at the national and congregational level working for full inclusion. We will continue to deepen and expand the RIC program in order for LGBT people and families to have a safe community to worship and to thrive. We will continue to bring a Lutheran voice of faith wherever injustice and oppression are present. ReconcilingWorks is committed to being a leader in the welcoming movement.

However, to meet the needs of the present and prepare ourselves for the future, we know we must revise how this work is done.

The ReconcilingWorks Board of Directors has approved a two-year strategic plan that focuses on the work highlighted above. This plan requires us as an organization to evaluate our programs and make changes to our staffing in order to ensure we remain fiscally sound as we prepare for the future. As a result of this transition, Brett Bowman and the Rev. Anita Hill have left the staff of ReconcilingWorks. From the depth of our shared commitment to our movement and work, we acknowledge and thank Brett and Anita for their faithful dedication to the mission of ReconcilingWorks.

“I’ve been involved with ReconcilingWorks as a volunteer since 1976,” Anita said, “and I imagine I’ll be old and long retired before my volunteer engagement with the ministry of ReconcilingWorks comes to a close. I hope to see hundreds of ReconcilingWorks members, donors, and friends at the 2015 ReconcilingWorks Assembly, July 30–August 2, at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The theme, Until All Are Free, is close to my heart as I continue to work for LGBT and racial justice and equity.”

As God is doing a new thing in the church and the world, ReconcilingWorks is committed to aligning the staff and organization with the holy work and mission of welcome and inclusion that is before us, bending the arc of history for fuller equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and families. Together, with you as our partner, ReconcilingWorks will continue to strive side by side with the Lutheran communion to make welcome a lived experience in our congregations and our communities.

By the grace of God,

Aubrey Thonvold
Interim Executive Director

ReconcilingWorks at the "Working Group for Ministry to and with Same Gender Couples and their Families"

Marriage ConversationsReconcilingWorks asks for your thoughts and prayers as we travel to Chicago to visit with the ELCA’s “Working Group for Ministry to and with Same Gender Couples and their Families” at the ELCA churchwide headquarters on Friday and Saturday.

ReconcilingWorks’ Interim Executive Director, Aubrey Thonvold, and the Revs. Ann Tiemeyer and William Hamilton will be making a presentation to the Working Group about ministering to and with LGBT couples and their families. The ReconcilingWorks team will speak to the great, continuing need for LGBT couples and families to feel welcome in the church and be accepted as they are. Other groups will also be presenting, including Lutheran CORE and various panels of clergy and laypeople gathered by the ELCA Working Group.

The Working Group’s mission is to encourage conversations and resource sharing throughout the church about this important ministry. You may recall, back in October, that the Working Group distributed a questionnaire to discover what conversations may be happening in your faith community and what resources might be needed to aid in ministry and pastoral care. To all of you who responded to that survey—thank you!

To learn more about the working group, please click here.

Please keep the ReconcilingWorks team and the Working Group in your prayers as they meet this weekend.

You, too, can take part in this conversation by posting to Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #ELCAConvo

How should congregations welcome, care for, and support LGBTQ people and their families?

What is your congregation’s role in supporting children with LGBTQ parents?

Would it be helpful to have a wedding liturgy provided by the ELCA that is appropriate for all couples, including LGBT couples?

 

Georgia Clergy Unite to Oppose Religious Refusal Bills


WilliamFlippin3smallerA diverse group of Georgia faith leaders gathered at the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, January 14, to call on state legislators to oppose divisive religious refusal bills being proposed and introduced in the upcoming session of the state legislature. If passed, these bills could be used to refuse goods, services, and employment to LGBT people based solely on their sexual orientation, identity, or expression.

The clergy announced the release of a letter signed by more than 60 religious leaders from across the state, warning state lawmakers about the dangerous potential for an increase in discrimination against people of all backgrounds.

“We strongly oppose giving for-profit corporations religious rights that could allow them to discriminate against employees based on any characteristic—from their religious practices to their sexual orientation. This principle harkens back to the civil rights movement and our nation’s core values of equality and justice,” the letter reads, in part.


“We believe that love of neighbor guides our standing today” said Rev. William Flippin, Jr., pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Atlanta, Georgia. “This RFRA [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] bill infringes on ethics and our love of neighbor.”


The Rev. Flippin also said, “We are here united for a common purpose. Religious freedom is a deeply resonant American principle. In fact, it is one of the most fundamental rights as Americans. From the first Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts because of religious persecution, we are protected in the Constitution on religious freedom and expression. We all know that freedom is a great responsibility – to protect, to uplift, to enlighten. But, also, it is the responsibility of freedom that we not harm others. That's why I stand today opposing House Bill 29. As a Lutheran pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I share with these great faith leaders their universal values. Our ethics of the way we treat others should reflect the way we want to be treated based on the universal love of our creator. Laws that are created or interpreted that go against that principle in harming any group, goes against that principle, hurting us all.”

ReconcilingWorks thanks Pastor Flippin, and all the clergy that participated, for their work and witness.


Go here for the full text of the clergy letter as well as a list of its signers.

See the press conference on YouTube.   See below for a transcript of Pastor Flippin's remarks.

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WilliamFlippin2smallerWe are here united for a common purpose. Religious freedom is a deeply resonant American principle. In fact, it is one of the most fundamental rights as Americans. From the first Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts because of religious persecution, we are protected in the Constitution on religious freedom and expression. We all know that freedom is a great responsibility – to protect, to uplift, to enlighten. But, also, it is the responsibility of freedom that we not harm others.

That's why I stand today opposing House Bill 29. As a Lutheran pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I share with these great faith leaders their universal values. Our ethics of the way we treat others should reflect the way we want to be treated based on the universal love of our creator. Laws that are created or interpreted that go against that principle in harming any group, goes against that principle, hurting us all

As people of faith, we must fill our frames with not only the Ten Commandments, but with the Great Commandment that Jesus gave all of us, as well as all the virtues of a Spirit-led life. It's true that the commandments contain a list of rather daunting ‘thou shalt nots’ but these ten rulings are not meant to drag us down into negativity. In fact, they are intended to give us a very positive framework for the living of our lives.

The first four commandments provide us with guidance for our relationship with God, and the last six explain what it means to have a healthy relationship with each other.

We are standing for the principles of the Constitution: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which the First Amendment protects. But we believe that the love of neighbor is the framework of justice that guides my standing today.

You can think of the Ten Commandments as being two pictures instead of one. After all, God used two tablets of stone to deliver the commandments of Moses. The worship of God's majesty: that's picture one. And love of one another, that's picture two. They are equally beautiful, equally innovative, equally well crafted. No doubt Jesus had this two-frame approach in mind when he said that the greatest commandment calls us to both love your God and to love your neighbor as yourself.

As an ELCA pastor, I first understood this in making a volatile stand in support of the sexuality statement in my first call in the deep south, in Columbus Georgia, supporting clergy in same-sex partnerships. Clearly, these commandments are designed to help us, not to hurt us. That's why we need to tap into the source of energy and security when we worship God rather than the powers of the world.

The very same can be said for the second frame of the Ten Commandments. Despite the repeated ‘thou shalt nots’ that it contains, there's an enormous amount of guidance and direction to be gained from these six final commandments, despite our natural tendency to rebel against any limitations on our human freedom. When we collide, which I believe House Bill 29 is doing, with the commandments, we are going to get hurt, period.

We’ll be hanging in public view as a frame without a message, a canvas without a painting. It’s as though we ripped out of the frame the very meaning of life, the very reason for which God has placed us on earth. When an empty frame, when our lifestyle, trumpets the values of consumerism and materialism, we sacrifice our well-being for the sake of material possessions. We present our own interests as being identical to God’s interests and attempt to legitimize our ideologies and positions by attaching them to the name of God. We fail to honor and respect our elders, we carry hatred and resentments in our heart against others.

We read the New Testament and come across the great commandment of Jesus to love God and love neighbor. It is important to see the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and to post them prominently on your heart and mind. On one tablet you have the first four commandments concerning your relationship with God. And on the other, you have the last six commandments concerning your relationship with neighbor.

The Georgia discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act infringes and violates the core of human ethics in our relationship with our neighbor. On one side is God; on the other side is neighbor. Both are important, both are God’s will, both are found throughout the Bible. Old Testament and New: both are close to the heart of Jesus. Let us join together with these very important sides shaping my experience as a Lutheran clergyman and know that, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny, in an inescapable network of mutuality.’ Thank you.

Rev. William Flippin, Jr.
January 13, 2015
Atlanta, Georgia