On November 15th and 16th, we travelled to Davis United Methodist Church in Davis, CA to attend a Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) training. Rev. Israel Alvaran, a Filipino Methodist pastor, and Rev. Debra Peevey, the first out lesbian minister in the Disciples of Christ denomination who came out in the early 1980s, introduced attendees to the recommended 11-step process to guiding a church to become welcoming of LGBTQ people. The training included an explanation of the nuanced differences between gender identity and sexual orientation, role playing about how to engage gracefully with someone who is not yet accepting of LGBTQ people, an exploration of how to tailor the process to the unique culture of the congregation, and repeated reminders to take the time necessary to and provide education to address people’s concerns and questions about becoming a welcoming church. These best practices were extensively researched by the Institute for Welcoming Resources at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
Over the years, a number of Asian Pacific Islander churches have approached NRJ wanting to know how to most effectively guide their congregations through the process of becoming open and affirming of LGBTQ people. Grounded in the Asian American, queer, and postcolonial movements, NRJ has always focused on building relationships with people within the church as opposed to coming in as an outside force and telling people what to do or believe. Now, in addition to sharing our model of working with churches, we can also direct them to the step-by-step Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit.