Open Hearts, Open Church has been approved by the Synod Council for the North/West Lower Michigan Synod under the following charter.
Open Hearts, Open Church
The North/West Lower Michigan Synod Task Force on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
As Jesus embodies the radical love of God by drawing all people to himself1, we, as the Body of Christ in the world, are freed to transcend societal divisions and embody the radical grace, forgiveness and inclusion modeled by Christ.2
II. Statement of Purpose
Recognizing that "we are not of one mind on this issue. As a church we continue to discern and struggle with how we can best relate to same gender couples and families."3 The North/West Lower Michigan synod offers Open Hearts, Open Church A resource team to provide guidance, support, and companionship to fulfill the mandate to “assist members to understand what it means to be hospitable to all in the name of Christ regardless of sexual orientation” and gender identity.4
The goals of this ministry are as follows:
A. To continue to grow in our understanding of our mission and ministry through prayer, the study of the Bible, and of historical and theologically relevant texts.
B. To support the leadership of the Synod with respect to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity
C. To walk alongside and equip congregations with an understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity by:
1. Providing a team of trained leaders who will work with congregations as invited, including those which may become Reconciling in Christ, and those which may want to discuss marriage.
2. Developing a six-part Bible study to bring into the congregations that invite us.
3. Building awareness of and connecting congregations to Reconciling in Christ and other organized ministries.
4. Providing advocates to walk alongside rostered and lay leaders and all the baptized in their process of coming out.
D. To collect and compile hard copy and electronic resources for rostered and lay leaders, congregations and all the baptized.
E. To support Reconciling in Christ congregations in their continued process of welcome and inclusion.
F. To increase our presence at select PRIDE events
G. To develop partnerships within the ELCA and other organizations for advocacy and ministry.
1. We understand that if approved by Synod Council we will be a task force under the umbrella of the Publicly Engaged Church Committee.
2. At-large participation with the task force will be on a volunteer basis.
3. Volunteers will have the opportunity to be trained as resource people for congregations and as safe advocates for rostered and lay leaders and all the baptized who are in need of support during their coming out process.
4. Officers (co-chair, co-chair) will have alternating two-year terms renewable once.
5. Duties of officers
a. Organize and conduct meetings
b. Serve as contact persons for congregations who would like to invite resource teams
B. Levels of Responsibility
As a Synod supported task force we will be accountable to both the Synod Council and the Bishop’s office. Therefore we will be responsible to the Synod Council through our position as a task force under the Publicly Engaged Church Committee and we will relate to the Bishop’s office through the Bishop or the Bishop’s designee.
Resource teams will receive training by attending relevant workshops and training sessions offered through ReconcilingWorks, the Southeast Michigan Synod’s task force, and other recognized partners in ministry.
A. Funding for 2015
We have been fortunate to receive a bequest and several donated services that will provide for initial brochure printing and start-up costs.
B. Funding for 2016
1. We will be submitting a grant request to the Publicly Engaged Church Committee for 2016 funding.
2. Our projected 2016 budget is $2000 which will cover the following costs:
a. Training scholarships
b. Hosting trainings
c. Printed materials
d. Website hosting costs
1 John 12:32
2 Galatians 3: 26-28
3 Letter from Bishop Satterlee to the North/West Lower Michigan Synod regarding the recent SCOTUS decision on marriage.
4 From report on implementation of social statement: Human Sexuality Gift and Trust