What is the Reconciling in Christ program?
The Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program recognizes Lutheran congregations that welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) believers. The complete Reconciling in Christ Roster now exceeds 450 settings, including congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, and other organizations.
All people are welcome here. Why should we single out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people?
The RIC Program doesn’t seek special treatment for LGBT people. The reality is, however, that we live in a time where the voices of fear and misunderstanding often dominate the public discussion about sexuality. Tragically, these fearful voices are often all that are heard—and are sometimes taken to be definitive of what it means to be Christian. In fact, ReconcilingWorks continues to learn of Lutheran churches that shun LGBT people. Sometimes, even parents and other family of LGBT people are vilified.
As a result, it is assumed by many LGBT people that they are not welcome in any church unless told otherwise. Since even a general statement of welcome is heard as really meaning “everybody but me,” it takes a special effort to communicate that a congregation is sincere in its welcome. The RIC Program seeks to make clearer the policy of congregations, synods, and other organizations where all people are welcome as fully participating members, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or that of their children, siblings, and friends.
What is the Affirmation of Welcome?
The Affirmation of Welcome is central to the RIC program. It is simple, yet powerful in its witness. Any Lutheran group that adopts a statement that includes the naming of LGBT people as welcome to full participation is eligible to be designated as Reconciling in Christ after review by ReconcilingWorks. Making the Affirmation promotes a publicly inclusive ministry and helps heal the pain of doubt.
How do we become designated as RIC?
Most groups start the process of consideration by engaging in a study program or series of educational meetings. Hearing the experiences of GLBT people and their families often creates greater understanding and insights.
Click here for a wonderful resource called “Building an Inclusive Church: a Welcoming Toolkit.” Drawing upon twenty-five years of experience within a variety of Christian denominations, this Toolkit is a step-by-step guide to help facilitate a Welcoming Process in your local congregation. Biblically and theologically based, it uses tools of relational organizing, congregational assessment, conflict management, and change theory.
After completing a program of education, discussion, and mutual discernment, a congregation, synod, or other organization joins the program in one of several ways: by having its council (or equivalent body) approve the “Affirmation of Welcome” or by having a vote of the whole congregation. Once the Affirmation is adopted, the congregation, synod or organization sends a copy of the Affirmation statement, along with a signed letter, to the Grassroots Organizer. After the Affirmation is reviewed and accepted, the congregation, synod or organization will be added to the roster of RIC participants. The RIC roster is displayed on our web site and is distributed appropriately as a witness to the community and the church at large.
What will happen if we participate?
What you do once the Affirmation is adopted is up to your own congregation, synod or organization. Many churches post their Affirmation or include it in their bulletin. Others make an inclusive reference in their advertising or include the RIC Program in their annual budget. Once you adopt an Affirmation of Welcome, ReconcilingWorks will send you a resource called “Your Church is RIC: Now What?” a guide full of voluntary action steps for inclusive ministry.
Experience shows that any changes in your church or group will happen slowly, opening up individuals to healing and deep spiritual reconciliation. Perhaps parents with a gay son may finally be able to feel they are not guilty of failure in raising their child. Maybe a closeted lesbian member will bring her partner to church for the first time. A bisexual or transgender person, hearing of your congregation, might return to church after an absence of many years. It’s amazing how the Holy Spirit works when we are willing to be an instrument of God’s grace.
“All this is from God who reconciled us through Jesus Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:18