The Special Session of General Conference has completed its work. 864 United Methodist delegates from across the United States, Africa, Europe and Philippines met in St. Louis from February 24-26 to consider paragraphs of The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality.
The General Conference passed the Traditional Plan, which maintains the denomination’s ban on same-sex marriage and prohibition on the ordination of self avowed practicing homosexuals with additional accountability for enforcing those policies. The constitutionality of key points within the Traditional Plan has been called into question and will be reviewed by the Judicial Council in April. The General Conference also adopted legislation allowing a “gracious exit” for congregations wishing to leave the denomination. The legislation passed by the special session of General Conference and ruled constitutional by the Judicial Council will not go into effect until January 1, 2020.
Some of you are pleased or relieved by the decisions made by the conference while others are in deep pain and anguish. No matter the decision last week some were going to be sad. While as a UM pastor I will abide by the rulings of General Conference, I also am deeply saddened by the pain this has caused our LGBTQI brothers and sisters along with their families and loved ones. When a member of my family hurts I hurt too. Please know that you are a beloved child of God and member of our church community. You are both invited and welcomed to participate in our ministries.
United Methodists are members of a global and diverse denomination and are clearly not of one mind on questions around human sexuality. In spite of our differences, we are all children of God. At a time in which our society is becoming increasingly polarized, my hope is still that the church can be a place where people of different backgrounds, cultures and opinions will come together and seek to live in love with one another.
I encourage each of you to give yourselves time to process and heal and continue to offer grace to each other. While it is true we do not have to agree I implore you to treat one another with respect and grace that Christ commands and expects of each of us.
I also want to remind you we do have a clearly defined path as people of God. As one wrote: ‘The goal of the Christian faith is not simply to become a loving community but to be a community of people who participate in God’s mission to heal the world by reestablishing his loving reign on earth as it is in heaven.”
Please know that your clergy staff are united in seeking to serve Christ with you and all who come to worship, study and seek to serve God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Let me say that your clergy staff will continue to…
• be inclusive of ALL persons regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual identities, physical appearances, or physical or mental abilities
• Listen and support those who approve the traditional plan and those who do not
• Seek to clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, care for the sick and the dying, feed the hungry and seek to make disciples
• Gather, worship, study and serve
• Offer “safe space” for conversation to take place
• Offer Christ in a world filled with darkness
• Live by the commandment Jesus offered us in John 15:12. “This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you.”
• Remind ourselves and each of you that God is a God whose love is wider and deeper than what we could ever imagine.
I ask you as members and friends of First-Centenary to covenant with us to offer hope and encouragement to one another in these troublesome times.
Prayerfully offered – Mark
Published on Thursday, March 7, 2019 @ 4:08 PM EDT