19 Sep Frequently Asked Questions | Welcome Statement Congregational Meeting
When is the meeting?
Sunday, September 29 at Noon.
Where is the meeting being held?
Sanctuary – Madison Campus.
Will there be Child Care?
Will the service be recorded?
Yes. However, the service will not be streamed.
What is the proposed welcoming statement?
“We welcome all to Good Shepherd. Everyone. Without exception. This welcome includes those shunned by society and by churches because of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental abilities, financial resources, and family status, no matter what you have done or has been done to you, no matter what darkness you have struggled with, now or in the past.
In this large, beautifully diverse world, we invite you to a community where we all belong. Whether you are a believer, a doubter or a seeker, in Christ’s love, we welcome you. By the power of the Holy Spirit we will work to extend God’s grace, love, justice, and dignity inside and outside our church.
You are a Child of God. You belong here with your whole self. Your story and your life are valuable, here at Good Shepherd, and in the world. We welcome you.”
What is being voted on?
The board is presenting this welcoming statement crafted by the RIC (Reconciling in Christ) task force. It is supported by the board, and the board is looking for an affirmation by the congregation as guidance for the board in setting policy. The vote on September 29th will be advisory. If the welcoming statement is approved, the board will decide whether Good Shepherd will become a recognized Reconciling in Christ Church.
How did the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) process begin at Good Shepherd?
In 2017, after the South-Central Wisconsin Synod of the ELCA became a part of Reconciling in Christ, several members of our church started asking if Good Shepherd was a Reconciling in Christ congregation and if the church was welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community. While Good Shepherd has always considered itself welcoming to all people, the church had never talked about welcoming LGBTQ+ people specifically and what that means. A group of Good Shepherd members began to meet and look for resources to start this dialogue in our congregation. The members decided to use the Reconciling Works resources because they have helped many other ELCA congregations with this process. In 2018, the RIC task force was officially recognized by the Good Shepherd church board. The task force continued following the process outlined by the Reconciling Works organization with the main goal being creating opportunities for more conversation around the topic of welcome in general and LGBTQ+ welcome specifically.
Why are the welcoming statement and becoming a Reconciling in Christ church connected?
From the Reconciling Works website: “The Affirmation of Welcome statement provides the foundation of the RIC program. It is a public document that specifically welcomes “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual/aromantic” (LGBTQIA+) people or “people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions” into full participation within community. We encourage creativity in this statement so that it reflects the diversity in all social categories of your community including but not limited to race, age, abilities, and ethnicity.”
Why does Good Shepherd need a new welcome statement? Doesn’t the church already have one?
Good Shepherd does have a welcome statement already but working through the RIC process has helped the task force see the need for a new one. After much review and asking for the thoughts of many members the task force developed a new welcome statement that helps the church define what welcome means to Good Shepherd and who is welcome. At Good Shepherd, we are Christians who believe that all people are welcome in our church, but we also recognize that sometimes other churches have said the same thing, but then excluded groups of people, including the LGBTQ+ community. By naming who is welcome, the task force believes Good Shepherd will open the doors for people who may not be welcome elsewhere while also reminding all of us that our identity is in Christ first, and that identity unites us as one family in God.
Why is most of the focus on the LGBTQ+ community? Aren’t there other groups that need to feel welcomed too?
The task force focused on the LGBTQ+ community because historically this group has been excluded from many churches. Our Reconciling Works contact told the task force that if a specific welcome is made to the LGBTQ+ community, other people who have also historically been excluded will notice and know that if we welcome LGBTQ+ folks, then they will be welcome too.
What does the Bible say about this?
Jesus never made any statements about sexuality as it is understood today. Homosexuality is discussed in the Old Testament and in Paul’s letters. Reading the Bible within its historical context means asking questions about what was happening at the time the books of the Bible were written and how those historical events affected what the author wrote about and how they were responding to the events of the day.
Homosexuality wasn’t the same during Bible times as today. There were not loving, monogamous, same sex couples getting married. When Paul refers to homosexuality, he was writing about an adult man in power who used that power to have sexual relations with a teenage boy. Most agree with Paul that this kind of abuse of power in a relationship is not okay. The idea of two consenting adults of the same sex in a loving relationship didn’t exist in Paul’s time. So, as people read the Bible, they have to think about what these words mean for their own context today.
Isn’t homosexuality a sin?
Homosexuality as described above (as in Paul’s time- a man in power forcing a teenage boy into sexual relationship) is generally considered a sin, because it is an abuse of power and it is wrong. But the Bible never talks about relationships between two people of the same sex that we know are possible today.
A sin can be defined as anything that separates you from God. If any relationship becomes unhealthy and draws you away from God, then yes, it is a sin. However, relationships can also be a way to express God’s love for us and can even draw us closer to God. When people hear stories about how other people are living out their faith, when people see love in action, when people see a friend, spouse or loved one using their God-given gifts to bring goodness into the world, they know those relationships are not sinful, but can inspire others to draw closer to God.
What does the Welcoming Statement and becoming an RIC church mean for performing marriages at Good Shepherd?
As a church community, Good Shepherd has the privilege of blessing loving relationships by hosting wedding ceremonies. Marriage in the Lutheran church is not a sacrament. A pastor’s calling in the Lutheran Church includes administering the sacraments of communion and baptism and sharing God’s word among the people. A part of this calling is also to officiate over marriages as a representative of the community of believers in order to bless these special relationships. The pastors currently decide who gets married at Good Shepherd and can also decide who doesn’t. A part of the welcoming statement is defining what welcome means to us. If Good Shepherd votes to accept a new welcome statement, the church will also have the task of living it. So staff and members will have to decide what that means for our community.
What if I don’t agree with affirming the Welcoming Statement and becoming a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) church?
Good Shepherd believes everyone is a member of the body of Christ and that each member of the body is important and needed. Not all members have the same gifts, not all members are going to do things the same way all the time, and not all members are going to agree all the time. But because of God’s love and through our baptism in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that lives in our hearts, the task force and the board believe we are and can still be one. And in fact, each member of the body of Christ is indispensable.
Not everyone has to agree with one another to worship together and serve God together. The body of Christ is rich in diversity and that gives us strength. The church needs you and your gifts here at Good Shepherd. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many.”
If Good Shepherd becomes a Reconciling in Christ community, what does that mean? (from the website)
“The RIC Program simply keeps a roster of Lutheran communities that proclaim a specific welcome for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, so they are more easily found by those looking for such a welcome. That’s all that’s indicated by being listed on the RIC roster.”
Is the ELCA and the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin members of RIC?
ELCA and The South Central Synod of Wisconsin already are RIC-affiliated. If approved, GSLC will come under that umbrella.
*Is a congregational meeting required by our Constitution to approve a statement?
A congregational meeting is not required by our Constitution. (https://gslcwi.com/who-we-are/constitution-and-bylaws/) Establishing policy is reserved as a board responsibility.
Specifically in Article 5:3
“The congregation is authorized to:
- call a pastor; as provided in Article IX
- terminate the call of a pastor; as provided in Article IX
- call or terminate the call of associates in ministry in conformity with the applicable policy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;
- adopt amendments to the constitution, as provided in Chapter 17, and amendments to the bylaws, as specified in Chapter 16;
- approve the annual budget;
- acquire real and personal property by gift, devise, purchase, or other lawful means;
- hold title to and use its property for any and all activities consistent with its purpose;
- sell, mortgage, lease, transfer, or otherwise dispose of its property by any lawful means;
- elect its Board of Directors, and require them to carry out their duties in accordance with the Constitution and Bylaws;
- terminate its relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as provided in Article VI.”
Who is able to vote?
All confirmed members who have taken communion and/or given money to the church in the past year, as required by the constitution, are eligible to vote. However, we will be using the honor system to determine who will be allowed to vote on September 29.
Do you have to be present to vote?
Yes. This is a requirement of the church’s constitution. Proxies are not allowed.
How will the vote be decided?
The vote will be advisory. It is assumed that the vote will be done by paper ballot unless someone moves for voice vote.
If the vote is just advisory, why doesn’t the board just decide?
The board decided to call a congregational meeting to increase trust and transparency in the process. However, the board’s review of the constitution made them realize the decision had to be made by them. The board was also concerned about having the congregation voting on people and not policy.
What is considered a quorum?
75 members are required to hold a congregational meeting.
What will the structure of the meeting be like?
The meeting will be run by board president Andrew Seaborg. After a motion and a second is made to approve the welcome statement, a discussion will begin. There will be a maximum of 2 minutes per person to speak. We welcome all points of view on this topic to be expressed.
If the congregation affirms the Welcome Statement and the board approves becoming an RIC congregation, will the RIC task force disband?
No. This is not considered the final step in becoming an RIC congregation. The final steps will be the congregation learning how to live into welcoming statement they have approved.