Our Open & Affirming

Discernment Team

 

Open & Affirming Discernment Team Report

Congregational Meeting presentation January 17, 2021

 

There were two paragraphs in the midweek emails about Open and Affirming, one in late August advertising for volunteers and one in late October announcing the team. Those two paragraphs in the midweek emails may be all that anyone has heard about the Open and Affirming Discernment effort. But that is about to change.

 

The team has been continually active during the meantime. Our primary assignment from the Church Board is to “help guide our congregation through the discernment process”. For the last three months, we have been in prayer and educating ourselves on the discernment process, on Open and Affirming, and on gender and sexuality.

 

What is the discernment process? The book "The Way of Discernment" by Elizabeth Liebert describes discernment as the traditional Christian practice of seeking God’s call in the midst of the decisions that mark one’s life. Discernment may be the single most important Christian spiritual practice for dealing with all the forces, options, and decisions that characterize modern life. Entering into discernment means becoming increasing able to notice where God is at work in the world and in one’s own life, and increasingly generous with one’s own life in response. A discerning person seeks, in all that she or he does, that which better responds to God’s call in the moment.

 

Prayer, especially listening for God’s call, is central to the discernment practice. One of our team’s prayers is to be guides worthy enough of this congregation.

 

The spirit of Graceful Engagement is used throughout every aspect of the discernment practice. The spirit of Graceful Engagement requires deep listening and treating each person as a beloved child of God. It is about listening, sharing one’s own story, hearing one another’s perspective, finding shared experiences, and building relationships.

 

In the next couple weeks, we will begin this Graceful Engagement with a mailing to everyone containing a letter of introduction and an anonymous survey. Please take the time to complete and return the survey to the church office or a team member. The survey will provide an interesting view of our congregation. There were a couple unexpected insights from just the team’s survey results. The compiled results of the surveys will be shared with the congregation.

 

Following the mailing, team members will begin scheduling one-on-one or small group conversations to pray and to discuss discernment, Open and Affirming, and the survey results. Our goal is to engage everyone in the congregation in the discernment practice and conversations. This task is obviously problematic and complicated by the Covid-19 warnings. We anticipate that most of these conversations can be held over the phone or on Zoom. We will also work with people that prefer to have in-person discussions. The conversations should and will be Covid-19 safe and comfortable for all participants.

 

Although there are roadmaps of other congregations’ Open and Affirming journeys, our conversations when completed, will determine the path and next steps in our congregation’s discernment journey. Please join with all of us to pray, to listen, to build relationships and community, to discern God’s call for our community, and most of all, to follow and live His call in our lives, everyday and everywhere and with everyone.

 

Linda Greaves             Sandra Drage              Dawn Briggs               Pat Kukus
Brian Schuetz             Daniel Gardner           Frank Kauffman         Craig Jump


November 2020 Newsletter Update -- A Team is Formed! 

 

The church board voted on October 12th approving the slate of volunteers to be members of the new Open and Affirming Discernment committee. The members of this group will help guide our congregation through the discernment process, and report to the board regularly.

 

The members are:

Sandra Drage

Frank Kauffman

Dawn Briggs

Craig Jump

Daniel Gardner

Linda Greaves

Brian Schuetz

Pat Kukus.

 

We are thankful they are willing to give of themselves and help guide us into and through this process. Please hold them and our congregation in your prayers! 


Step 1: Forming a Team

 

A Statement from Our Moderator

August 20, 2020

 

Church Family,

Our Church Board has authorized the formation of a ministry team to outline and then guide the church through the Open and Affirming
discernment process. If you wish to serve on this team, please get in touch with our Moderator, Paul Heintzleman, or any member of the
Executive Committee.

 

This new ministry will select materials to use for this process, develop a projected timeline, outline the process for the congregation, and help us lovingly navigate this journey together. Part of the team's work will be to ensure that every voice in our congregation is heard and valued. Thank you.

Looking forward,
Paul Heintzleman

Church Moderator


We have been on a journey towards a discernment process around whether God is calling our congregation to express God's love in this time and place through a statement of Open and Affirming for at least a decade. In 2010, Rev. James Watson led a visioning process one piece of which was going to be entering into discernment (prayerful consideration) around becoming Open and Affirming. Rev. Watson left before this process could begin. Some of us fear the conflict and changes that will almost certainly come with engaging the question of whether to fully affirm our LGBTQ+ members. Some of us have experienced for ourselves or have watched loved ones experience the hurt of not being fully affirmed for who they are. 

 

This summer (2020), after receiving 4 letters from congregants asking that we embark on a process of prayer, education, conversation, listening, sharing and exploring around whether and how to welcome and affirm all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, our church's Executive Committee sent out the letter below.

July 15, 2020

 

Dearly Beloved,

 

If you are reading this letter, you have no doubt experienced the warm welcome from our church family. Whether you have been here all your life or have recently arrived, this congregation has made welcoming people in Christ’s love part of our identity for over 100 years. We agree this is a core value, one that we see as central to following Christ. 

 

While we agree on the importance of the act of welcoming family, strangers and friends alike, we do not always agree on what we mean by welcoming. Who do we welcome? Is there anyone we do not welcome? Do we welcome, affirm and celebrate the whole person? How do we do this?

 

In the last few months, the Executive Committee has received three letters from members of the congregation who serve in various leadership capacities. These letters request that our church move ahead with a discernment process, one where we learn about what it means to welcome all (and who in our community may not have been welcomed), as Christ showed us. This process specifically focuses on the welcome and affirmation of LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people.

Over the last few months the need for education and prayer around racial justice has become clear, and we hope that similar energy, effort and passion can go towards education, discussion and prayer about Open and Affirming.

 

At our upcoming August Church Board meeting, the Executive Committee will recommend that we form an exploratory team to gather resources, outline a time frame and determine what this discernment process can look like for our congregation and how best to proceed to become an Open and Affirming Church. 

 

We are thankful for the initiative of congregational members in urging us to move forward in this process, and we ask that you hold our congregation in prayer during this time of exploration that will lead into discernment. 

 

Please do not hesitate to reach out to anyone on the Executive Committee or our Pastor if you have any questions or thoughts about this.

 

In gratitude,
Paul Heintzleman, Moderator
Pat Kukus, Treasurer
Kathy Bialy, Church Clerk
John McCoy, Chair of Deacons
Bernie Depperschmidt, Chair of Trustees
Alexandra Stanke, Co-Chair of Trustees