Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. God does not faint or grow weary; God’s understanding is unsearchable. God gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
But now thus says the Lord, the one who created you, O Jacob,
the one who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
(From Isaiah 40 and 42)
To Reconciling Congregations and Annual Conference Coordinators:
General Conference 2000 is over. We are exhausted and angry, profoundly sad and in deep pain, and know that we share all of this with you. Despite our efforts as RCP and as partners in the AMAR coalition, the General Conference has, once again, reasserted the church’s unjust and unloving position on issues of heterosexism. Our greatest consolation is the knowledge that we did all that we could. The “Wide is God’s Welcome! Extend the Table!” campaign was meticulously planned, generously financed, abundantly resourced by hundreds of committed volunteers, and skillfully executed.
The General Conference, in both the Faith and Order Legislative Committee and the plenary sessions, heard the stories of faithful gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. The conference witnessed courageous non-violent demonstrations and direct actions which proclaimed the demand for justice and inclusion. Still, more than sixty percent of the delegates closed their minds and hardened their hearts.
Although far from accomplishing all that we worked and prayed for, during these two weeks we were blessed by rich experiences of God’s grace. We glimpsed the hope of “beloved community” as we were bonded by our common labor. We were granted unexpected affirmation, when fearful brothers and sisters whispered words of support which they dared not speak aloud. We were invigorated by the power of our common witness, supported and shared by some delegates, bishops, and many others.
The United Methodist Church, broken and bigoted as it is, is our church. We are not going away; we will not be silenced; we will intensify our efforts. The Board met in Cleveland on Saturday and Sunday to begin immediate planning toward our goal of providing, throughout the denomination, communities of hospitality in the midst of hostility. We also initiated a process of visioning, through which we will reconsider the foci of our mission in light of the church’s continued intransigence. We cannot accomplish these things alone; we need all of you. We will be soliciting your ideas and help, but please do not wait for us to ask. Communicate with us, as together we pray and plan, work and witness.
The Board of Directors of the Reconciling Congregation Program recommits itself to the task before us. We ask that of you as well. We remind us all of the foundation of that task:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Godself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to God, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making the divine appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)
Gayle Felton, Chair
The Board of Directors
The Reconciling Congregation Program
Deeply committed to social justice, Rev. Dr. Gayle C. Felton worked to integrate the public schools in her native Edgecombe County, N.C., and was a pioneer in building the Reconciling Movement advocating for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church, going on to serve as the national board chair of the Reconciling Ministries Network. Among her published works are This Gift of Water, By Water and the Spirit, This Holy Mystery, United Methodists and the Sacraments, and The Coming of Jesus. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history from North Carolina Wesleyan College and a master’s of divinity and doctorate from Duke University, where she returned to teach in the divinity school.