Many of you are keeping up with the most recent ruling of our General Conference regarding LGBTQ+ persons and their full inclusion in the life of the church. By now you are aware that the General Conference meeting in February voted to retain the traditional language of the Discipline and to continue the limited inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons (i.e. ban on performing same sex weddings and ban on ordination for gay persons). Later, in May, the Judicial Council of the church was asked to hear arguments on the constitutionality of these rulings. The Council upheld the February rulings.
This has led to a genuine crisis within our denomination. The overwhelming majority of voters in the American Methodist church (2/3rds to 1/3rd) voted for what was known as the “One Church Plan, which would have opened the door for every local church to consider its own context and decide for themselves how to move forward as United Methodists. But because the General Conference also includes the global Methodists (like Africa, Asia, etc.) those voting blocs helped to defeat the One Church Plan by a 53 to 47% vote.
As a result, many are beginning to question how we can move forward as a global church. The African influence proved to be the most powerful. Homosexuality is not just taboo in most African areas - it is criminal and sometimes even punishable by death. At the same time, polygamy is widely practiced in African nations. Many found it difficult to reconcile the hard stance against LGBTQ+ persons while allowing polygamy.
The latest piece to all this is that a gathering of some 600 clergy and lay persons from every annual conference in the nation (a total of ten from each conference) met at Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. This is the largest UMC in our connection and led by Adam Hamilton who is well-known among most us. This gathering was the first to try and determine how “centrist” and “progressive”- minded churches might forge a new future together - maintaining our Methodist heritage. We can discuss their initial findings at a later date.
For now it is becoming increasingly clear that we need to know where we stand as a church. Your Church Council will be shortly sending you a very simple survey which will give you a chance to weigh in on this conversation. One of the four questions asks simply, “Do you agree with the decisions made at the recent General Conference? And you may answer simply yes, no, or not sure. You may also expound on your answer if you wish. This survey will be done anonymously. Our goal is to learn, as the leadership of the church, how we can proceed together as a congregation.
Let me be clear - we are not at any kind of “decision point”. That may very well come later, but for now we are simply doing our best to know the mind and heart of our congregation. The survey will be self-explanatory when it arrives and how you can return it. The quickest, easiest way will be online. For now, I wanted to alert you that the survey is coming and how important it is to all of us that every member and regular participant in the life of our church take a few minutes to fill this survey out.
And finally please hear this - our ultimate goal is the same as it has always been: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As always, if you would like to speak directly with either Sam or myself about this, we invite you into conversation.