This past weekend, Martha Brooke Martin and I participated in a seminar regarding “The Way Forward”. Some of you are familiar with The Way Forward and many of you are not. Let me explain. For the past 45 years, our denomination has struggled with the issue of human sexuality. Every four years at our General Conference this topic would often dominate the conversation and it was almost always toxic.
At the last General Conference held in 2016, the Council of Bishops stepped in to suggest that we name a commission--a group of 32 clergy and lay members--to study this issue and bring a recommendation back to a special called session of the General Conference to be held in February of 2019--10 months from now. At that conference we will set a course for the future of our church as it pertains to this issue, which can be summed up as follows: Will the United Methodist Church become inclusive of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) persons in our society?
The commission is to have its recommendation done by the end of May and it should be available to every annual conference at our June session. At that point, we can begin to have a conversation about what their recommendation means to Belle Meade UMC.
For now, I’d like for each of us to begin to ask ourselves the question, “What does it mean to be Church?” “What does it mean for us to be in a ‘covenant’ relationship with each other?" Later, we anticipate having wider conversations about this issue. We will likely invite the entire congregation to study a chosen resource together in order to better understand the issue and what the various options moving forward might be.
I wanted you to know about this as early as possible so we can all think clearly about who we are and who we want to be. This issue is complex and emotional. I ask us all to begin by being in prayer for our denomination and our local church. The United Methodist Church is strong and it has a glorious future. As long as we keep our hearts open to the movement of the Holy Spirit, the outcome will be blessed by God.