The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
On Sunday, November 13 – the first Sunday after the presidential election, when people were reeling and the entire country seemed divided and no one felt like they could predict the results of anything ever again – the members of Grace Lutheran in Apple Valley, MN, voted to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation; to be a community of faith explicitly welcoming to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions.
Many people didn’t understand the need for this designation when our process first began, especially since our vision statement already included the words “without exception” in detailing that all are welcome. Many people didn’t realize that the phrase “All Are Welcome” gets thrown around in churches where homosexuality is understood as a sin; they didn't understand the violence that occurs in our churches when we say, “All Are Welcome,” but don’t really mean it. They didn’t realize how many LGBTQ+ people assume they’re not welcome unless the language used to convey the invitation is explicit. They didn’t understand that, for so many LGBTQ+ people, not participating in the life of a faith community is an act of self-preservation. But over the course of nearly two years, the majority of our members came to understand this need for specific language, and came to believe that this wider welcome is evidence of the in-breaking of the Kin-dom of God on earth.
That majority, we should point out, was overwhelming. We set the threshold for the motion to pass at 80% of the vote. We delayed the vote for months because our 9th graders weren’t confirmed until Reformation Sunday, and they wanted so badly to be a part of this important decision. In the end, more than 95% of our members voted in favor of becoming an Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation.
Our gratitude for this outcome is deep and wide. We are grateful to the members of our RIC committee, whose commitment and diligence goes unmatched. Among those committee members, we are particularly grateful to Reggie Graupmann, whose courage in coming out as transgender months before the vote was instrumental in helping our congregation to imagine how this wider welcome could play out. We are grateful to Reconciling Works, for accompanying us every step of the way. We are grateful to our members, for their faithful response to God’s unbounded love for all people, and we are grateful to God for allowing us to bear witness to all of it.
Pastors John Matthews & Andrea Roske-Metcalfe
Grace Lutheran, Apple Valley