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When looking for the roots of IWR, look no further than Mark Bowman and Ann B. Day and the welcoming church programs that they have led. Mark is the founder of Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist) and Ann was the spearhead of Opening and Affirming Program (United Church of Christ). These two pioneering programs, founded in the early 1980’s were joined in cooperative efforts by More Light Presbyterians, Open and Affirming Ministries (The Christian Church/Disciples of Christ), Association of Welcoming & Affirming Baptists, Reconciling in Christ Program (Lutheran Churches/North America), Affirming Congregation Programme (United Church of Canada) and Supportive Congregations (Brethren/Mennonite). Together they published an award winning journal, Open hands. This was followed by the publication of the study program, Claiming the Promise, and a volume of worship aids, Shaping Sanctuary. Together in 2000 they sponsored the largest gathering of welcoming church supporters ever. After the highly successful WOW 2000 gathering in Dekalb, Illinois, the leadership of the cooperative welcoming programs decided a formal organization was needed to facilitate the growing movement. Howard Bess, an American Baptist, and Peter Barbosa, an active member of the United Church of Christ, led the effort to bring the organization into reality. IWR was incorporated in 2002 under the name Welcoming Ministries Incorporated and attained its 501(c) (3) federal tax exempt status A seven person board of directors was drawn from the sponsoring welcoming programs. Six programs became the formal sponsors of IWR. More Light Presbyterians (Presbyterian), Open & Affirming Ministries (The Christian Church/Disciples of Christ), Open and Affirming Program (United Church of Christ), Reconciling Ministries Network (United Methodist), Reconciling in Christ Program (Lutheran Churches/North America), and Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (Baptists).

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