First United Methodist Church, South Bend, welcomes all people, regardless of immigration status, marital status, family configuration, economic circumstances, ability, gender identity or expression, physical, mental or emotional challenges, age, gender, color, race, ethnicity, national origin, faith background or perspective.
We believe that God’s love is expansive and unconditional, and that through Christ, God has called us to love one another as He loves us.
ALL are welcome here. YOU are welcome here.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Reconciling” ?
It is people coming together, bridging chasms of misunderstanding; individuals and groups uniting and sharing values and goals. Reconciliation can be defined as the purpose of both the Christ and the Church—reconciling us with God’s love.
“From first to last, this has been the work of God. God has reconciled us…to God’s own self through Christ, and God has enlisted us in this service of reconciliation.” I Corinthians 5:18. Reconciliation, then, is the work of the whole Church. We believe that we can come to a consensus where all are included, and where the world around us will say, “Look how they love each other, so many different kinds of people, doing justice.”
What does it mean to be a Reconciling Congregation?
As Christians, we strive to follow Christ’s example of welcome and love for all. But the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church (the United Methodist book of rules and doctrine) contains unwelcoming language about gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) persons. This is the only group of people expressly made to feel unwelcome by official denominational statements, and the only group denied full rights of participation in the UMC.
To be a Reconciling Congregation simply means that we disagree with the unwelcoming language of our official denominational statements, and we choose instead to be inclusive of all people.
We are purposeful about including everyone.
Does this mean that First Church is breaking church law?
Being a Reconciling Congregation does not violate the United Methodist Book of Discipline (book of rules and church doctrine). John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in the 1700s, said that Methodists “think and let think.” What he meant is that beyond our agreement on central aspects of Christian doctrine, Methodists can hold diverse opinions on all kinds of topics. One of the great things about Methodism is that every individual, and each pastor and church, is free to express our opinions about spiritual, social, political and economic issues. We recognize that whatever our differences, what binds us together as Christians is far more important than whatever might separate us.
Does being a Reconciling Congregation mean that we’re an all-gay church?
No, it means that we’re an “all kinds” church. At First Church, you’ll find people across the spiritual, political, and social spectrum. Most of us are native English speakers, but some are not. Some of us are politically conservative while others are liberal. Many of us have European ancestors, but some of us don’t. Some of us understand the Bible in a fairly literal way, while others believe that the Bible is to be understood as an expression of the historical time and place it was written. Most of us are heterosexual, and some of us are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning. But in the end, we have this in common: we think that diversity is God’s good gift, and we celebrate it!
How did First Church become a Reconciling Congregation?
Like most churches who take this step, we engaged in prayer, study, and dialogue regarding the concerns of everyone in the church. An all-church vote was held. We’re proud to say that the congregation overwhelmingly agreed that we should join the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) (Link) and welcome all people, regardless of immigration status, marital status, family configuration, economic circumstances, ability, gender identity or expression, physical, mental or emotional challenges, age, gender, color, race, ethnicity, national origin, faith background or perspective.
What is the Reconciling Ministries Network?
The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is an organization dedicated to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in both the policy and practices of United Methodist Church.
Are other congregations or ministries in Indiana and Michigan also part of the Reconciling Congregations movement?
Yes. We’re happy and proud to stand with many congregations in Bloomington, Lafayette, and Indianapolis, Indiana along with twenty congregations in different cities and towns in Michigan.
How can I find out more about this issue and First Church’s position?
We’re glad you asked! Feel free to contact any of our pastors with further questions. We will be happy to talk with you.