A Draft Welcome Statement has been written by the Welcome and Inclusion Working Group

On Sunday, March 3, after a summer of one-on-one meetings and learning/bible study events in the fall, the Welcome and Inclusion Working Group (WIWG) has drafted a Welcome Statement for New Hope!

This statement was inspired by the Cross Window in the Narthex which is the oldest stained-glass in our church and was part of the original construction before the new Narthex was built. As the seasons progress the window washes different parts of the Narthex in contemplative shades that remind of us Christ’s constant presence. It was this imagery that was the inspiration for the welcome statement. In addition, some of the language was taken from our unique communion invitation which has made a deep impact on many people. Drawing from these items and the collective content of what we learned from talking with you. The welcome statement below is proposed by the WIWG.


God’s amazing love knows no boundaries. In the shining light of that love, New Hope Lutheran Church of Missouri City, Texas celebrates and affirms people of all races, creeds, sexual orientations, gender identities, sizes, ages, abilities, countries of origin, or any other quality that some use to separate people from the inclusive wholeness of the body of Christ. Regardless of who you love, who you are, or who you want to become, you are welcome here.

Draft Welcome Statemtn

Why do we welcome a specific group when we say we welcome all?

All people are welcome in our faith community. Why should we single out lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual/

aromantic (LGBTQIA+) people and a commitment to anti-racism?

Many LGBTQIA+ people have learned by experience they are not welcome in faith communities, even in those that state, “All are welcome here!” A general statement of welcome is often heard as meaning “everybody but me,” so it can take a special effort to communicate an authentic welcome to LGBTQIA+ people. RIC communities find their journey of discernment extending a welcome to people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and commitment to anti-racism opens them up to other people or groups who also need a clear invitation to know the community has truly prepared for them. The ministry of welcome must be intersectional to truly see, name, and care for those God names as beloved.

How does a Lutheran community become an RIC partner?

The community must follow all four of the RIC partner public commitments. They are: 1) Your community explicitly states a welcome to people of “all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions” or “LGBTQIA+” and names its commitment to racial equity or antiracism in its welcome statement, 2) Open to calling an LGBTQIA+ and Black, Brown, Indigenous, Person of Color (BIPOC) rostered leader, 3)Will allow community space/sanctuary to be used for LGBTQIA+ weddings and blessings, and 4) Will make a meaningful contribution annually to support the national RIC program. A faith communities Welcome Statement to become RIC partner needs to be affirmed at a congregational meeting or a vote by church council or other governing bodies.

When was the RIC program started and why?

Since 1983, the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program has been a public way for faith communities to see, name, celebrate, and advocate for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions in the Lutheran church. The RIC Program is made up of congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, outdoor ministries, and other Lutheran organizations. Every ministry setting begins this journey from their own unique context and ReconcilingWorks is here to help you create an authentic welcome journey that is customized to your community.

The purpose of the RIC Program is to ensure the welcome, inclusion, celebration, and advocacy for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions; work for racial equity and commit to anti-racist work and support the national program.

Click here to see a PDF that says more.

Profile: Heidi Good

My background is a bit different from most of the folks who attend New Hope. I grew up in the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles in the 50’s and 60’s, the daughter of a German Rocket Scientist. Most of our neighbors were in entertainment industry jobs, studio and symphony musicians, and all the behind the scenes folks, cameramen, electricians, producers, the trainer of Lassie etc. We also had several gay couples living nearby at various times, next door, across the street and behind us etc, though in that time they dared not to be out. Of course there were also many other families that lived there too.

I struck up a friendship with many of my gay neighbors, both adults and kids, as I walked the dog daily.  I discovered that many of the adults wanted to go to their respective churches but knew they were not really welcome if anyone knew who they really were.

I went to what was is well-known social justice oriented all girls Catholic convent high school, Immaculate Heart, which turned out many famous alumna like Mary Tyler Moore, Tyra Banks, Meghan Markle and Yara Shahidi. I attended from 1961-65 during Vatican II, Pope John XXIII’s attempt to modernize the church.  I got my passion for social justice from those brave Immaculate Heart nuns, who marched with MLK, and were later disbanded by the Archbishop of Los Angeles MacIntyre for being too uppity.

So the reason I advocate for the LGBTQIA+ and people of all origins is personal.  I felt like an outcast because I was an immigrant from the wrong side of WW2, who could not even speak English and thus was bullied constantly.   At some point I realized that the gay adults and kids were the nicest to me. Of course, they were also outcasts. Because they accepted me, I also wanted them to be accepted.

After undergrad school at UCLA, I moved to Minneapolis for my Masters degree in Microbiology and Soil Science in 1970 and met my husband Paul there. We then got married and moved to Houston in 1972-3 to work for Shell. Went to Rice and got my PhD in Ecology. But Houston was a complete culture shock, especially with all the religiosity floating around.  I soon discovered that the Pat Robertson types and Southern Baptists were definitely not what I understood to be Christianity.  When our oldest child started to be asked to attend those types of churches by his friends, I decided to find a church I felt comfortable with him growing up in. So we found New Hope in 1983.

I then realized there were gays folks here and knowing the pastors were very accepting, tried to let them know that.

At this point I decided it was time to pay back for all the support I had gotten from gay folks over the decades. I tried PFLAG but soon decided the RIC project in my own denomination was the best way for me. I got involved with the organization and soon found myself being the Regional Coordinator for Region 4, (Central States) which includes our Gulf Coast Synod. There I got to know many religious Lutheran gay and trans folks and pastors. So I am still here today 15 years later, trying to do my bit for accepting all of God’s creation.

Addendum:  growing up, we had a second home in the resort town of Big Bear Lake in the SoCal mountains and were close to two other families with kids the same age. I was especially close to Sammy an 8 year old boy to my 16. He was my little ski buddy. Still have the cabin and we summer there.  At a neighborhood get together a few weeks ago, this now 67 year old man thanked me for being so nice to him. Turns out he is gay and now happily partnered, but was not treated well by his parents. I told him of his influence on my life and what I was wanting to do in our church.  He was deeply touched, he looked at me earnestly with knowing eyes, and said if you can save just one life, it’s worth it.

Profile: Barbara Wadzuk

Hi!  This is Barbara Wadzuk wanting to share a little bit about myself and my involvement in the Welcome and Inclusion Taskforce.  I am a seventy-eight-year-old mother of three and grandmother to six.  My career as an educator — High School and Community College —took place in between raising children.  I am proud of my attendance at Valparaiso University in Indiana, Southern Methodist University, and Rice University.  Teaching at various churches over the years,  my presentation topics have been about death and dying; church-wide mission statements on sexuality; and women active and equal in the church.  These are often topics it seems like no one wants to talk about, even parents with their children.  But they are all aspects of God’s wonderful creation and, I believe, important to discuss.  Yet another topic typically unaddressed in the past has finally turned up in our secular and religious media.  Joining the Worship and Inclusion Taskforce is helping shift some of my time and energy to the LGBTQ+ community — a minority diverse group in our world.  My interest in LGBTQ+ issues began with gay friends and membership in Lutherans Concerned, an early organization for those working to support the LGBTQ+ community.  My first Pride Parade was in Wheaton Illinois over twelve years ago.  I am learning more and more as working with the Welcome and Inclusion Taskforce has given me the opportunity to meet more members at New Hope, learn from them, and work to address inclusion of LGBTQ+ at New Hope.  I know God’s Love is unquestionably for us all.  We can make a special effort of broadcasting that love.

Let’s talk about “Queer”

Historically, “queer” was used in a derogatory sense, targeting individuals who deviated from societal norms concerning sexual orientation or gender identity. However, during the late 20th century, particularly amid the AIDS crisis, LGBTQ+ activists courageously reclaimed the word. By transforming “queer” from a term of hate into a declaration of identity and resilience, they turned the tables on those who sought to marginalize them.

In modern discourse, “queer” is used as an umbrella term for a range of identities beyond heterosexuality and cisgender norms. It offers a flexible, encompassing alternative for those who find traditional labels too restrictive or limiting. In this way, “queer” recognizes the fluid nature of sexual orientation and gender identity, fostering inclusivity and acceptance.

The term “queer” has also gained considerable mainstream acceptance, thanks in part to its visibility in popular culture and media. TV shows like “Queer Eye” have played an instrumental role in redefining and mainstreaming the term, helping to disperse lingering negative connotations.

While making the case for “queer,” it’s important to note that some individuals within the LGBTQ+ community still associate the term with its derogatory past. Respect for these perspectives is crucial. However, the continued use and promotion of “queer” by many can contribute to further diluting its negative historical connotations and underline its status as a term of empowerment and inclusivity.

The use of the term “queer” represents an ongoing dialogue about identity, acceptance, and the transformative power of language. Its fluidity and inclusivity offer a valuable tool for facilitating broader understanding and acceptance, reflecting the rich diversity of experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. It is a powerful symbol of how a community can reclaim and redefine the narratives about its identity.

Juneteenth: Free at Last

Welcome and Inclusion Working Group member Linda Lyons sends us a message about Juneteenth.

Monday is Juneteenth, a unique holiday that started in Texas and is now officially celebrated nationally.  It commemorates June 19, 1865, the day Union Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas the emancipation of slaves in Texas.

I don’t believe it’s an  understatement to say it’s one of the important anniversaries on the calendar, for it’s the day that slaves in Texas first learned they were free, and it marks a major point in our national mission. The promise that “all men are created equal” in hopes it could truly be fulfilled.

On this date we should be empowered by learning from our past, embraces our differences and loving one another as Christ has loved us.

Be encouraged to take some time this year to reflect on how we can make the legacy of Juneteenth relevant in our own lives. It starts by treating all people fairly, respectfully and equally in all that we do.

 Happy Juneteenth!


Greetings from the Welcome and Inclusion Working Group. This is our blog where we will be posting updates on our work and plans for the future. Soon you will see announcements for Bible studies and other fun and educational events related to our work. 

We’re eager to connect with each one of you personally, so don’t be surprised if one of us reaches out soon to set up a one-on-one chat. We’re keen to hear about your affection for New Hope and your vision for our future ministries. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

Our collective journey is centered around the uplifting Reconciling in Christ (RIC) movement. Have questions about RIC? No problem! We’ve put together some FAQs below to help you understand why it’s a vital part of our ministry’s future. And remember, our team is always ready to chat and answer any questions you might have. The members of the Working Group are:

  • Beth Bachman
  • Michael Ditsky
  • René Garcia
  • Heidi Good
  • Lisa Gruschkus
  • Linda Lyons
  • Danny Sigmon
  • Barbara Wadzuk
  • Andy Wright

We look forward to the future with you!

  • The Welcome and Inclusion Working Group (WIWG)


What is RIC?

  • Since 1983, the Reconciling in Christ (RIC) Program has been a public way for faith communities to see, name, celebrate, and advocate for people of all races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions in the Lutheran church. The RIC Program comprises congregations, synods, colleges, seminaries, outdoor ministries, and other Lutheran organizations.

Why do we need to be explicit? All are welcome here and have been welcome here.

  • Many LGBTQIA+ people have learned by experience that they are not truly welcome in faith spaces, even in ministry settings that state, “All are welcome here!” A general statement of welcome is often heard as meaning “everybody but me,” (especially when the church has been so dangerous in the past) so it can take a special effort to communicate an authentic welcome to LGBTQIA+ people.
  • While New Hope has historically had gay members in the congregation they have often felt the need to hide for a very long time, some attending church together but never feeling comfortable enough to arrive in the same car. Because of the long history the church has with LGBTQIA+ people, even New Hope can be a place of fear and dread even though the hearts of its members are joyful and accepting. Our openness and love need to be explicitly stated so they know that, unlike other churches, this sanctuary is safe.
  • Having explicit welcome pledges written in the church documents cements New Hope’s openness to ministry to the LGBTQIA+ community. This is a pledge to always be a safe place for ministry to this community, a pledge to be a spiritual rock, beacon, and home where they can experience the transforming love of Jesus.

Why should New Hope become RIC?

  • Becoming RIC creates powerful ministry opportunities for New Hope. Open and accepting congregations are easily accessible in Houston proper but not so much in the suburbs. New Hope has an opportunity to become a place of refuge and growth, of healing and discipleship, of hope and new life for a subset of society to whom the church has been historically hostile.
  • Becoming RIC furthers the message that Jesus teaches: to go out of our way to welcome the outcasts; to leave the 99 to help the one that is hurting and heartbroken. Jesus frequently spent time with people who were considered “sinners” by society. That is what makes Jesus’ message so radical and wonderful. Truly everyone is a child of God, and in a world where so many of our fellow Christians have lost sight of that message, it is our duty to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and lead by example.


You will bring God glory when you accept and welcome one another as partners, just as the Anointed One has fully accepted you and received you as his partner. (Romans 15:7)