Central UMC, Detroit Joins Reconciling Congregation Network
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From the Reconciling Congregation Program FlashNet:
The Reconciling Congregation Program is pleased to announce the recent
decision of Central United Methodist in Detroit, Michigan. Last Sunday, in
a special church conference, the congregation voted overwhelmingly in
support of a statement of reconciliation and to join the national network of
the Reconciling Congregation Program.
The decision by this historic United Methodist congregation increases the
number of Reconciling Congregations to 166, United Methodist congregations
dedicated to full inclusion of all people into the community of faith.
Incorporated in 1822, Central United Methodist church is the "mother church
of Methodism in Michigan" and has a long and proud history of justice and
In the early 1830s, Central was the site of a courageous act of "hands-on
activism," when the, then Michigan territory, became the first in the nation
to outlaw the death penalty. Members of the congregation stood on the roof
of the church and witnessed the last legal execution. After the hanging,
church members climbed down from the church, tore down the gallows and
dumped them into the Detroit River. It was one of many proud moments in
this congregation's long history.
In 1918 there was the case of Dr. Ossian Sweet, an African American dentist
who had moved into an all white neighborhood. A threatening mob gathered
around his house while police stood by doing nothing. Dr. Sweet and his
family, members of Central Church, were hostages in the house. When the mob
moved towards them, a confrontation occurred resulting in the death of one
of the members of the mob. Dr. Sweet was charged with murder. The famed
defense attorney Clarence Darrow defended Dr. Sweet and gained an acquittal
from an all white jury.
During the 1960s, Central was a frequent host to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
as he traveled through the country. In fact, in 1968 King delivered his
last sermon at Central before his death in Memphis. The sermon was entitled
"The Meaning of Hope" and remains a strong memory for many members of the
The downtown congregation has been a vital part of Justice and Peace
advocacy in Detroit and also houses the Swords Into Plowshares Peace Center
Central's statement of Reconciliation speaks of their decision as consistent
"with our ongoing mission and commitment to overcome racism, sexism, ageism,
and classism." They declare their joining of "the witness to open the
doors of the United Methodist Church to the participation of all people,
regardless of sexual orientation, by declaring itself to be a Reconciling
Congregation." In what is a clear rebuke of the denomination's exclusionary
language, the congregation affirms that "it is incompatible with Christian
teaching and scripture to discriminate against anyone."
Good news indeed! Let us celebrate another community being on the path
towards a fully inclusive church!
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