An Altar for All: Final Discernment Groups

As a congregation, we are coming to the end of a year-long discernment process on An Altar for All. Will Hennepin be a church where Rev. Bruce Robbins may officiate a Christian marriage for a same sex couple in our sanctuary and chapel?    Members of the Ad Council will seek to reach consensus on what has become known as An Altar for All at the June 7 Ad Council meeting at 6:00 PM in the Art Gallery.

The Ad Council and I invite you to attend the last round of discernment discussions on any Sunday in the month of May at 11:00 AM in Room 201. If you have already attended a discernment discussion over the last many months, we thank you! If you have not yet attended one, we invite you to come in May.

Here’s a recounting of our discernment process as a church community on An Altar for All:  

Question and Answer document:  Bruce brought his request to “offer the grace of the Church’s blessing to any prepared couple desiring Christian marriage” to the attention of church leaders in the spring of 2011 before the UMC annual statewide conference. Bruce and I, as chair of the Administrative Council, prepared a question and answer document about his request in May. It contains background on Bruce’s actions at the 2011 annual conference, the subject area as it is addressed in the Discipline of the United Methodist Church, some Hennepin history, and implications of An Altar for All. Click here for the Q and A document, pick up a copy at the reception desk, or call 612-871-5303 and ask to have one mailed to you.

At the July 2011 Ad Council meeting it was suggested that small group opportunities be offered for education, discussion and a safe space for expressing concerns on An Altar for All.

Congregation meeting: Through a church email including the Q & A, Bruce and I invited our church community to a congregation meeting on An Altar for All in the sanctuary on September 18, 2011.

Discernment tool for small group discussions: We knew we needed to create a structure for holding small group discussions on An Altar for All so we could discern together and “practice beloved community.” As Leah wrote on the front page of the May !nSpire newsletter, discernment implies listening, waiting, and seeking. It is an action, but it is not about rushing to a decision. It is about listening to God in and through one another.

Leah Rosso volunteered to organize a small committee to write our discernment tool and Jean Forster, Steve Cope and Rob Gamble were invited to participate. They created the discernment tool as a guide for our discussions on An Altar For All using the lens of our UMC quadrilateral as seen over our sanctuary doors – scripture, tradition, reason and experience.  Click for the Discernment Tool. A copy is available at the reception desk or ask to have one mailed to you.

When you read the discernment document, the process with the questions is there so you know what to expect in your small group discussion.  In the groups, we use the Mutual Invitation process which emphasizes listening to one other and inviting people to share. It is a respectful conversation, not designed to change minds or persuade, but to open our hearts and help us better understand each other.

On the last page of the discernment tool, you are strongly encouraged to share what you have learned and any reflections you have about An Altar for All by emailing me or Dave Johnson, vice chair of the Ad Council. The Ad Council will receive all the materials that are handed in to help it discern about offering its blessing to Bruce if he conducts a same-sex marriage.

Church-wide discernment in small groups:  We have invited people in our church community to attend a discernment group many times. All committees were asked to hold a discernment discussion. Small groups where everyone in our church community was invited were held Nov. 6, 13, 20 and 27. We held another round Jan. 15, 29 and February 5.  Through United Methodist Women at Hennepin, all the women of the church were invited to attend discernment groups on March 25 and April 10. An Altar for All was among the topics at the October 9 congregational meeting and again at our annual church conference on January 14 this year.

If you have not had an opportunity to attend a discernment small group, you are invited to attend one any Sunday in May at 11:00 AM. In addition, Bill Mate will hold conversations May 15 and 22 about the scriptures that refer to homosexuality. See the article in the May !nSpire about that Adult Nurture opportunity.

Thank you to all who have come to the discernment discussions! For those who have not taken advantage of the opportunity, we welcome and invite you in May.