Dear Church Family,
The General Conference in St. Louis is over. Representatives from around the globe have voted to uphold our denomination’s prohibition of gay marriage and ordination of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA community. In addition, they voted to increase accountability and consequences for clergy and Bishops who do not align with this stance. While a majority of United Methodist Churches in the North America favored a more inclusive approach, we are a global church. Our sister churches in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Philippines were strongly united in their belief that the traditional stance of the United Methodist Church should remain.
Personally, I am very disappointed. I am saddened that after all that has happened, we are even farther apart from each other. I lament the hurt that has been experienced by brothers and sisters in every part of the church – as well as in our community. I regret the damage to the church’s reputation with those in future generations. The world is now focused on our brokenness and not upon the tremendous amount of healing and service we do as God’s people.
In the coming days it will be important to refrain from embracing oversimplifications. We must not assume that people who supported the Traditional Plan dislike LGBTQIA persons or don’t want them in church. At the same time, we must not assume that people who supported greater inclusivity do not care about holiness or the Bible.
I recognize that with each potential outcome, a different part of our church family would have been hurt and angry. That said, I believe that we must pay special attention to the pain of our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQIA community – as well as those who love them. Our brothers and sisters need to hear from us: you are an integral part of our church! You are loved and you are welcome! I echo the words of Bishop Carter who said, “You are of sacred worth. You are not the problem. You are not out there. You have been in every church I have ever served. You have blessed me and our family. Your gifts strengthen the church.”
Please know that it will be several months until we are able to understand the full consequence of this recent vote. Several of the items, including about 40% of the Traditional Plan (upholding our traditional stance), still needs to be reviewed by the Judicial Council. They will decide which parts of the plan are valid under our denomination’s constitution.
In the meantime, please plan to attend our church-wide Town Hall Meeting at 6:00pm on March 13th. At that time, we will be unpacking what has happened as well as discussing the future. I am convinced that this special General Conference gathering will have a significant impact on how our church will function and look in the future. At the same time, I believe that God is drawing all of creation to a conclusion around His throne. And that the church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, will be His chosen instrument to accomplish this. Our task is to keep in step with the Spirit. Please be in prayer that we do.
May God give us His grace and peace for the journey ahead,