Dear Friends in Christ,
I write this on Wednesday night, after a day in which the Council of Bishops reviewed the events of General Conference and made plans for the days ahead. To recap, The United Methodist Church has not been of one mind around human sexuality since 1972, when language entered our United Methodist Book of Discipline that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and that practicing homosexuals are not to be ordained. In each successive General Conference, that disciplinary language has been challenged by faithful Christians.
In 2016, because of our impasse, a Commission on a Way Forward was created to help us develop a plan for moving forward. The Commission was composed of clergy and laity representing our worldwide United Methodist Connection. Three plans were formulated. The One Church Plan would allow questions of same-sex marriage to be decided by individual churches and clergy, and questions of ordination of self-avowed practicing homosexuals to be decided by Conference Boards of Ordained Ministry. The Traditional Plan would retain the current prohibitions around homosexuality. And the Connectional Conference Plan would form three overarching “conferences” based on theological affinity.
On Tuesday night, the General Conference in St. Louis voted to approve the Traditional Plan, where clergy would continue to be prohibited from performing same sex marriages, self-avowed practicing homosexuals would not be permitted to be ordained, and there would be enhanced enforcement. At their spring meeting, the Judicial Council will review these decisions for constitutionality.
While many people are grateful for the decisions of the General Conference, others are devastated, especially our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters, who long for full inclusion in The United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church has always been a denomination that welcomes differences and where not everyone thinks alike. I pray that you will treat one another with compassion and kindness during this difficult time.
A scripture that comes to mind is Isaiah 43:1-3, “But now, says the Lord -
the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flame won’t burn you. I am the Lord your God, the holy one of Israel, your savior.”
The holy one of Israel, our God, is the savior of all, for God calls each one of us by name; not just some, but all. Each one of you is a beloved child of God. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ continue to call and empower you and your congregations to share the good news of God’s love, minister to the needs of your communities, and transform our world.