FUMC opens their doors to LGBTQ community

FUMC is becoming a “Reconciling Congregation” through the Reconciling Ministry Network.

The First United Methodist Church of Moorestown is opening its doors to the LGBTQ community. FUMC is becoming a “Reconciling Congregation” through the Reconciling Ministry Network, a national network of Methodists committed to the inclusion of all sexual orientations and gender identities. FUMC is one of only eight reconciling churches in New Jersey.

On Sunday, Jan. 20 at 3 p.m., the church will hold its first “Reconciling Sunday,” which it hopes will serve as a joyous welcome to members of the LGBTQ community. Marvin A. Marsh, a retired Baptist pastor and past director of the Neighborhood Action Program, will serve the celebration’s guest speaker.

Lisa Kulp, a member of the steering committee of the church’s reconciling team, said for her the ball was set in motion when she began having conversations with her fellow congregants about a year and a half ago. She said with LGBTQ family members, it didn’t make sense to her that her church wouldn’t recognize them as also being created in God’s image.

Kulp and some of her fellow church members met with the church’s assistant pastor, who informed them other members had also expressed feeling uncomfortable with excluding the LGBTQ community. So, the church held its first meeting about potentially becoming a reconciling church in 2017, and the response was overwhelming.

After spending nearly 15 months researching and consulting with members, the church put it to a vote this past November, and 93 percent of the congregation voted to become a reconciling church.

“That is such an overwhelming majority,” said FUMC Treasurer Doug Sell. “It was very gratifying, and it was very encouraging. It means to those of us who have been working at this that we have the authority by all of the support to continue.”

Lead Pastor Tom Korkuch said now is an important time for them to show their support because another significant vote is coming up. In “The Book of Discipline,” the Methodist Church’s governing book, there is language that states homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching. Since 1972, this language has been put up for a vote and reaffirmed every four years.

Come February, there will be a special general conference putting this language up to a vote once more. Church representatives from around the globe will decide in which direction the denomination, as a whole, will proceed on the issue. Korkuch has been asked to attend the conference in Saint Louis and is excited by the prospect this may be the end the church’s LGBTQ exclusion.

Kulp said she’s grateful to be part of a church that’s standing up against LGBTQ mistreatment.

“This is a really positive, good thing within the United Methodist Church, to be able to voice dissent and disagreement and proclaim we believe differently,” Kulp said.

The church has been published on the Reconciling Ministries Network’s page, so LGBTQ individuals seeking an inclusive Methodist church know where to find one. Since being published on the page, a Methodist family from Hamilton who couldn’t find an LGBTQ inclusive church has started journeying to Moorestown for services. Korkuch said following the vote, they’ve also seen members starting to make their way back who may have left the church because of their exclusionary practices.

While the long-term plan is to create support groups and maybe one day a designated safe space to help LGBTQ community members, the hope is that once they’ve put the word out that LGBTQ and non-gender binary individuals are welcome, those community members can help the church better understand how to help serve them.

“I hope that they feel with 93 percent from the whole congregation [in support] that they’ll be encouraged, and I guess the sky could be the limit as to what we might be able to offer,” Sell said.

The Reconciling Sunday service is open to anyone. For more information, call the church office at (856)235–0450 or visit https://www.meetwithgod.com/care-prayer-share/reconciling-community/.