LCH—A Reconciling in Christ Congregation
Affirmation of Welcome
As a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) congregation, the Lutheran Church of Honolulu embraces this Affirmation of Welcome:
As a community of the people of God, we are called to minister to all people in our world, knowing that the world is often an unloving place. Our world is a place of alienation and brokenness. Christ calls us to reconciliation and wholeness. We are challenged by the Gospel to be agents of healing within our society.
We affirm with the apostle Paul that in Christ "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female" (Galatians 3:28). Christ has made us one. We acknowledge this reconciliation extends to people of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
Because gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons and their families are often scorned by society and alienated from the Church, we wish to make known our caring and concern. It is for this purpose that we affirm the following:
- that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities share the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by God;
- that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are welcome within the membership of this congregation upon making a common, public Affirmation of Faith; and
- that as members of this congregation, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities are expected and encouraged to share in the sacramental and general life of this congregation.
RIC and ReconcilingWorks (formerly Lutherans Concerned/North America)
The Reconciling in Christ Program identifies Lutheran ministries that have publicly affirmed their full welcome of all people. Initiated in 1984, RIC is a program sponsored by Lutherans Concerned/North America, an independent member-supported organization founded in 1974 to work for full inclusion of sexual minorities within Lutheran settings. The Reconciling in Christ Roster now exceeds 400 settings, including congregations, synods and organizations.
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How LCH Became an RIC Congregation
Speaking on RIC Sunday in 2005, Carol Langner gave a brief history of how LCH became on RIC congregation. Here are some key excerpts:
In the late 1980s, Walter, respected council member, long-time choir member—and closeted gay man, came out to the congregation. He wrote a devotional that was included in the church’s annual Lenten Booklet written and compiled by members. I suppose he was forced “out” because he had AIDS. The symptoms of the opportunistic illnesses, which would shortly take his life, were becoming obvious. He could no longer hide. Healing is a mysterious thing, and I think this confession helped to heal Walter's divided spirit. He could become whole again, the full person he was. In that wholeness he was able to receive the love and care that the congregation could and did offer him. Aside from a somewhat distant brother, he had no family either here or on the mainland.
Walter died in Queens Hospital in early April, 1990—just before Easter. As much as our care for Walter helped to heal his spirit and prepare him for his death, so did he help the congregation heal from a malaise we didn’t even know we had. He did this by raising to our consciousness the historical tension within the Christian tradition regarding the place and role of gay and lesbian persons.
The lessons we learned from Walter served us well in the spring of 1991 during congregational discussions about the pending internship of Bob. As an “outed” gay seminarian, Bob lost the support of his sponsoring candidacy committee, and was no longer eligible to continue his studies at PLTS. Instead, his internship was offered through the Pacific School of Religion (PSR). Council President Mary and the rest of the Council did a wonderful job facilitating a respectful exchange of opinions between congregational members. The Council then came to an affirmative vote that led to a watershed year for LCH.
1991–1992 was not only the year of our gay intern, but also the year of our initial Sexuality Study ‘Ohana, small groups to study and reflect on the ELCA’s first draft on the subject. Through these groups we shared our faith, broadened our ideas and knowledge, deepened our friendships—and shared some humor. One ‘ohana met at a member’s apartment; a participant announced over the enter-phone, “Hi, I'm here for group sex!” Each group wrote a final report to submit to the national ELCA office and I suspect those reports were among the most supportive of the Draft that the national office received.
After Bob’s departure in the fall of 1992, the congregation engaged in an Envisioning Process. Topping the list of concerns was the quality of childcare programs on the church’s premises and gay/lesbian issues. The creation of a LCH Gay/Lesbian Task Force grew out of the Envisioning Process. Twenty to twenty-five highly energized people met for over a year and lead the way on getting council approval for a congregational RIC vote in January 1993 (86-6 in favor) and sponsoring a Synod RIC resolution for May 1993, which passed 158-54. .... The Task Force also sponsored educational opportunities for the congregation; tried unsuccessfully to share our remarkable year with Bob by publishing an article in The Lutheran; and met twice with our Bishop Miller to discuss ELCA policy on ordination and to consider the options for Bob.
Since 1993, I believe the congregation has been engaged in learning to live out the RIC covenant for which we voted. ... I think we just go about our faith and business and don’t give it a second thought, that we no longer are compelled to “tell our story” for either justification or apologia. We let the life of the congregation speak for itself. We are quietly living our vote in the total integration of all aspects of the congregation’s life.
The experience of this congregation is unique. We may still be of diverse opinion on many things, but on this issue, I think we are healed. And we can help heal the larger church and our society, by living our congregational life with integrity and witnessing to the truth we have experienced—that in Christ, there is no division, that we are all members of the Body of Christ, and that we honor and love God most when our congregational culture enables all our brothers and sisters—gay and straight—to live full and undivided lives.
Because of the convergence of energies around Walter and Bob, the sexuality study ohana, the trial and suspensions of the San Francisco congregations, and the Baehr vs. Lewin case filed in 1993 which sought to legalize same gender marriages here in Hawaii, many people at LCH were caught up in the grip of an ideal which moved us beyond ourselves. I think all transforming activism is like that, being captivated by something larger than oneself. This is the state of seeing visions and dreaming dreams, of imagining and working to move beyond the status quo.
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