WSUMC’s Reconciling Next Team Presents the Inaugural Harriet Hancock Ally Award

The Reconciling Next Team at Washington Street United Methodist Church (WSUMC) recently hosted a celebration of community and love. “Finding the Courage to Speak and Act: LGBTQIA+ Activists & Allies Journey in the UMC” was held on May 24th to honor, thank and encourage allies. The event kicked off with a delicious meal and was followed by awards presentations and two keynote speakers.

Dr. Nancy Malcom, a sociologist at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA, and Dr. A.J. Ramirez, a sociologist at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, GA spoke at the event. The two began working together in 2019 after the UMC General Conference to do research on the question: “Why do LGBTQIA+ and Allies stay in UMC?”

Dr. Malcom shared quotes and stories from some of the interviewees. One was an ally who said that allies need to not only offer support but to speak up, especially when LGBTQIA+ persons can’t be in the room. She also shared that by staying in the UMC, LGBTQIA+, and allies can continue the work of changing the church from within.

Dr. Ramirez shared her personal story of her wife and children finding an affirming church in South Georgia. Through the Reconciling Ministries Network, she connected with a UMC minister in Macon, GA, a strong ally. She became a lay leader with Centenary UMC, and with support from Centenary, is building a community of disaffiliated Methodists and others seeking an affirming place to worship God in their hometown.

Two longtime Columbia allies were honored for their continued support of the LBGTQIA+ community. The Rev. Tom Summers presented the inaugural Harriet Hancock Award to Harriet Hancock for 40 years of work to assure justice for and rights of LGBTQIA+ persons and their families. Harriet is known as “The Mother of Pride” in SC. Her accomplishments include being the founder of the first PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in Columbia (1980); co-founder of PALSS (Palmetto Life Support Services) in Columbia (1985), which provides support services to those with HIV/AIDS; and co-founder of the first Pride event and parade in 1990.

Jim Lane presented the first Harriet Hancock Ally Award to WSUMC member Rev. Tom Summers who has worked with Harriet for years supporting the rights of LGBTQIA+ persons. Tom served as a hospital Chaplin during the AIDS epidemic. He conducted a funeral for a man who died of AIDS and whose family had abandoned him because he was gay. Tom said this “cruelty shocked and saddened him”. After that, Tom was determined to continue his ministry to LGBTQIA+ persons, and families. Tom formed a ministerial group, SC Clergy and Friends, who walked in the Pride parade for years. Tom wore his clerical collar and carried the banner.

The Reconciling Next Ministry team consists of members of WSUMC, Reformation Lutheran, and St. Mark UMC. Our mission is to inspire and engage our congregation and community to challenge and transform unjust systems that discriminate against or lessen the opportunities of LGBTQIA+ persons.

Washington Street was established in 1803 and was the first Methodist house of worship in Columbia. In January 2016, WSUMC updated its identity statement to reflect the vision of the church and its congregation: “The congregation of WSUMC praises and serves God from the heart of the city in ways which reach our neighbors near and far. We welcome all who seek the love and mercy of Christ regardless of race, creed, age, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or economic status. We honor traditions as rooted in our history, our expression of worship, and our respect for theological curiosity. We nonetheless see vital change and ongoing renewal as essential for spiritual growth.”

Washington Street is a proud member of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). It is currently only one of two Methodist congregations that are members of the organization. The RMN is committed to intersectional justice across and beyond the United Methodist connection, working for the full participation of all LGBTQIA+ people throughout the life and leadership of the Church.

Save the Date: Facing the Future 2023
November 14-16, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia

Registration Opens June 1st

The last three years have been a whirlwind for us in so many ways. We have lived through and are still living through a global pandemic and its effects, wrestling with systemic racism, and a deep lack of connection and community. Pastors serving in Cross-Racial Cross-Cultural (CRCC) churches are bridge builders, living in between worlds while also seeking to co-create beloved communities in the face of deep, sharp cultural division. This can be exhausting and isolating work. We believe that the church of the future is one where leaders are nourished, accompanied, and empowered for a lifetime of service with and alongside God’s people.

We invite you to mark your calendars, November 14-16, and join us in Atlanta Georgia for Facing the Future 2023, where leaders from all over the country will come together to be affirmed and equipped to be effective change agents in their ministry in the world. Themed Be3: Being, Belonging, and Becoming, Facing the Future 2023 will be grounded in biblical and theological reflection, foster an environment of affirmation and support, have engaging and dynamic multicultural worship, and provide practical and relevant workshops and tools to further equip attendees as we journey toward together in building a more inclusive and connected future. We look forward to seeing you in Atlanta!


Reconciling Ministries Team

About the Team
On January 7, 2020, the first meeting of the Reconciling Ministries Team gathered together to begin focusing on LBGTQI issues within our church and our community.

An agenda and a copy of the Discernment Implementation Team Report to Church Council (May 2019) were distributed. Each attendee self-introduced by responding to the question, “What is your hope for this team?” Comments shared touched on the following hopes:
 Dialogue with and unity of the congregation;
 Supporting groups and being a “safe space” for LGBTQA+ groups to meet;
 Desire to change the community at large, not just those at WSUMC;
 Being a useful and helpful member; helping to build on the welcoming spirit at WSUMC;
 Advocacy and ministry in the community to LGBTQAI+ persons, particularly in the downtown area;
 Learn more and help to build a unified church and welcome diverse persons;
 Be of service to the committee; help spread the message of inclusion;
 Help address the issue of systemic discrimination in the discipline; be an active change agent;
 Engage in the committee and help build community;
 Help to meet the needs of individuals we are not reaching now – young adults; use creative means to do the committee’s work (Go Fund Me example); and
 Build bridges with our community; do meaningful work.

Two specific goals were the focus of the team stated in the Discernment Implementation Team Report to Church Council:
1) to lead advocacy and information efforts within our congregation as we strive to see a transformed United Methodist denomination wherein all
members have access to all the privileges of membership, and 2) to build ministries of compassion and justice with and for the LGBTQAI+ community.

Discussion followed regarding the focus of the group. Among the topics discussed were:

  • the need to reach out to Harriett Hancock Center, PALSS, Transitions, and SC Equality about partnership opportunities;
  • Invite reps from USC GLBTQ Alliance, Columbia College, Allen, and Benedict Universities GSAs to dinner and sharing, to build connections and understand better the needs of today’s GLBTQAI+ college students;
  • the issue of sustainability of UM churches and what church may look like in the future (not Sunday morning at 11); sharing that the WSUMC Identity Statement is included in all communication that comes from the church;
  • the possibility of putting the image on the WSUMC sign (corner of Marion and Washington) as a ribbon on the web; updating the website, in general, to reflect our affiliation with RMN; and
  • to investigate the use of WSUMC persons as counselors by the LGBTQAI+ community, if needed, at an affordable cost.

A discussion was held about where WSUMC is now, post-RMN vote. It was shared and agreed upon that, 6 months post-vote, it is time to live out boldly
and publicly who we are; that we are faithfully going forward. We need to share with those who are concerned that we are living out scripture and being Biblically obedient; people need to see and hear this (printed materials, from the pulpit, etc.).

The question, “How are we living who we are?” was asked. The RT agreed that many things are occurring and we are using the WS Identity Statement in all correspondences, and news stories highlighting WSUMC’s stance, wearing Do No Harm buttons, etc.). It was also shared that the congregation has an important role to play if we say we are a warm and welcoming church. The RT agreed that we need to all focus on welcoming openly and warmly, with no exceptions.

For more information, contact Jim Lane at

Washington Street United Methodist Church is a member of The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). The Reconciling Ministries Network envisions a renewed and vibrant Wesleyan movement that is biblically and theologically centered. As committed disciples of Jesus Christ, we strive to transform ourselves and the world by living out the Gospel’s teachings of grace, love, justice, and celebration of all of God’s children.

To read more about RMN, click here to download their brochure.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is rooted: 36 years of changing hearts and churches. And we are rising: a force of over 1,300 Reconciling ministries and over 40,000 individuals devoted to LGBTQ justice, ready for the next faithful step.