Reconciling Ministry

At Onalaska UMC, we love all people unconditionally, and we mean ALL! Jesus encourages us to love God and our neighbor and warns us not to judge.

On September 27, 2020, Onalaska United Methodist Church members adopted a Reconciling Statement clarifying our full welcome of all people. While the global United Methodist denomination continues to debate inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, our members engaged in the Reconciling process, an extended period of education, prayer, and discernment, before making this decision. 

This page compiles many of the resources we’ve shared during our journey as a congregation.

STATEMENT  | TESTIMONY  |  SERMONS  | RESOURCES  | LINKS  |  HISTORY  |  Q&A


Reconciling Statement

Adopted by written ballot with 82.6% approval out of 167 in-person votes cast by professing members at a church conference September 27, 2020: 

At Onalaska United Methodist Church, we believe in the teachings of Jesus: unconditional love, compassion, and justice.

All persons are created in God’s image and are of sacred worth. We affirm and celebrate persons of all ages, gender identities and expressions, sexual orientations, family structures, abilities, economic statuses, races, ethnicities, national origins, and heritages.

We honor the unique gifts of all persons including LGBTQ+ individuals and their call to serve according to their spiritual gifts. The body of Christ shares one baptism and God’s table is open to all.

We support the ordination of LGBTQ+ individuals and welcome them to serve our Church.

We will open our doors to celebrate the weddings of all prepared couples who, in consultation with our pastor, seek to commit their lives to one another with the blessing of our Creator.

We are the people of open hearts, open minds, and open doors. In the words of John Wesley, “We can love alike, though we may not think alike.”

Congregational photo of Onalaska UMC.
Composite photo of 11:00 and 8:30 services Sunday, October 11, 2020 as OUMC celebrated our Reconciling vote.


Personal Testimony

God Moments are a regular part of worship at Onalaska United Methodist Church. The following members of our congregation shared their faith experiences during our Reconciling process.

Being an Ally (YouTube) – Nancy Dull, June 30, 2019

Room to Believe (YouTube) – Jack Evans, September 29, 2019

A Family Journey (YouTube) – Jan & Bob Mattson, October 6, 2019

Call and Challenge (YouTube) – Ruth Halstead, October 13, 2019

An Altar for All (YouTube) – Kelly & Loretta Dunn, October 20, 2019

Gay in Church (YouTube) – Megan Barbian, October 27, 2019

Loving Family (YouTube) – Marion Hanson, January 26, 2020

Faithful Shift (YouTube) – Paul Bratsch, February 16, 2020

Notes From the Field (YouTube) – Paul Brown, March 1, 2020

Gay? Fine By Me (YouTube) – Megan Pence, March 22, 2020

Youth on Reconciling (YouTube) – Grace & Grace, September 20, 2020


“The Methodist Way” Sermon Series

Prequel: We’ve Got to Talk (YouTube) – Rev. Wesley White, June 9, 2019
Rev. White recalls a moment when United Methodist Church leaders realized they had to begin talking and listening to each other on the subject of LGBTQ inclusion. The miracle of Pentecost is about God helping us to speak and to hear each other clearly. Rev. White talks about the history of our discussion in the United Methodist Church.

The Methodist Way (YouTube) – Rev. Park Hunter, October 6, 2019
Why reconciling? Why now? Because we can’t sweep it under the rug – Jesus tells us to be reconciled with those we disagree with. Introducing a Methodist framework for thinking and praying our way to a Reconciling decision on LGBTQ inclusion, based on John Wesley’s Three Rules. (manuscript, PDF)

Do No Harm (YouTube) – Rev. Park Hunter, October 13, 2019
John Wesley’s first rule for Methodists is “Do no harm.” Unfortunately, the church has hurt LGBTQ Christians. We should not cause others who claim the name of Christ to stumble. We put the gotcha scriptures in context with a Wesleyan framework, and the help of the Holy Spirit. (manuscript, PDF)

Do All the Good (YouTube) – Rev. Park Hunter, October 20, 2019
John Wesley’s second rule for Methodists is “Do good.” LGBTQ Christians have born fruit and enriched the life of the Church. How can our church do all the good we can in partnership with the LGBTQ community? (manuscript, PDF)

Stay in Love With God (YouTube) – Rev. Park Hunter, October 27, 2019
John Wesley’s third rule for Methodists is “Stay in love with God.” Wesley intended for us to experience God’s love through worship and fellowship together. “Though we may not think alike, may we not love alike?” We need to keep the main thing the main thing. (manuscript, PDF)


Resources

The Way Forward, post-GC2019 (Word) – two-page summary of the results of General Conference 2019 and OUMC’s response.

The Way Forward, pre-GC2019 (Word) – two-page summary of the various proposals for General Conference 2019, and range of interpretation on LGBTQ issues and theology.

Reconciling Survey Results July 2019 (PDF) – at the beginning of OUMC’s Reconciling process, we conducted a survey to assess our congregation’s position. (blank survey form, PDF)

Reconciling Images Video Study Flyer (PDF) – five-part study using movies and TV shows to examine faith and LGBTQ culture. Discussion guides include one page for class discussion, and several pages of notes by the leaders on the videos: 1 Philadelphia / 2 Queer Eye / 3 Matthew Shephard Story / 4 One Day at a Time / 5 Nanette (PDFs)

What Does the Bible Say About LGBTQ People? (PDF) – a pamphlet briefly summarizing the key scripture verses, with pro and con interpretations.

Speakers’ Panel on the Future of the UMC (Facebook video) – Onalaska UMC hosted a wide-ranging panel discussion January 25, 2019 with leaders from a variety of perspectives across the conference.

Reconciling Conversation Guide (Word) – prompts for small group conversations near the end of our process.

Reconciling Listening Guide (Word) – prompts for a church listening session near the end of our process.


Links

Reconciling Ministries Network – Network of LGBTQ-inclusive UMC churches; resources for individuals and churches interested in reconciling. (https://rmnetwork.org)

Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation – One of the leading plans for the future of The United Methodist Church.  (https://www.gracethroughseparation.com)

UM News – The United Methodist Church’s official news source. (https://www.umnews.org/en/category/general-conference)

United Methodist Insight – Third-party articles and blog posts from several perspectives. (https://um-insight.net)

7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection – LGBTQ community center and support in La Crosse County, Wisconsin (http://www.7riverslgbtq.org)

For many more links to Methodist groups with a variety of perspectives on this topic, see answer #16 on our Q&A page.


History

For over a year, Onalaska United Methodist Church engaged in a Reconciling Process designed to facilitate conversation and give everyone a chance to share input. Here are some of the milestones along the way:

2019

February

  • UMC General Conference 2019 narrowly approves the Traditional Plan, enacting harsher penalties on pastors who conduct same-sex weddings and ordination of LGBTQ clergy.
  • OUMC Council votes unanimously to emphasize our vision that we “love all people unconditionally.”

March

  • OUMC Council votes to begin the Reconciling process

May

  • Reconciling Team formed, begins monthly meetings open to all for planning of process
  • Congregation surveyed
  • OUMC hosts NC District Conversation about GC2019

June

July

  • God & the Gay Christian book study
  • 1 & Done: Father Jerry Anderson, Ordained By Angels: Memoirs of an AIDS Chaplain

August

  • Reconciling Images video Bible study

September

  • “For the Bible Tells Me So” video discussion
  • Jack Evans God Moment

October

November

  • Making Sense of Bible book study
  • “What Does the Bible Say about LGBTQ People?” pamphlet available

December

  • Reconciling Statement first draft published

2020

January

  • 1 & Done: Reconciling Conversations
  • OUMC hosts Future of UMC Panel Discussion
  • Reconciling Statement first draft shared with Church Council
  • Marion Hanson God Moment

February

  • 1 & Done: Leader Listening Session
  • Reconciling Statement second draft published & shared with Church Council
  • Paul Bratsch God Moment

March

  • OUMC hosts 7 Rivers LGBTQ 101 and Panel Discussion
  • Reconciling Statement finalized and published
  • Church Conference to vote on Reconciling Statement (postponed until September due to COVID-19)
  • Paul Brown and Megan Pence God Moments

May

  • UMC General Conference 2020 (postponed until September 2021 due to COVID-19)

September

  • Reconciling Q&A meeting to update members on process
  • Youth God Moment
  • Church Conference September 27 to vote on Reconciling Statement (rescheduled from March because of COVID-19)