The United Methodist Church’s Special Session of the General Conference to discuss our denomination’s position on questions related to sexuality concluded yesterday. Over 800 delegates from around the world met for four days to debate and vote on legislation for a way forward for our denomination, which has been divided and debating about homosexuality since 1973.
Many of us had hoped that the One Church Plan, a plan that representatives from around the world spent over a year working on and that the Council of Bishops endorsed, would be passed, allowing churches and clergy to offer same sex weddings and Annual Conferences to have the option to ordain LGBTQ+ persons.
The One Church Plan did not pass at General Conference. Instead, the Conference voted by a slim majority (55%) for the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan maintains our denomination’s current position.
I am heartbroken by this decision. I dream of a church where all are welcome and embraced as beloved.
To our LGBTQ+ members and friends: You are God’s beloved child. God loves you, accepts you and includes you. Your relationships are sacred and blessed. No decision by any legislative body will ever change that. As a representative of the church, I am sorry for the ways the church has caused you harm in the name of God. I grieve the wounds you have received. I am committed to continue to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights until there is full inclusion in our church.
There are several takeaways from this General Conference that may be helpful as we try and understand what happened and how we move forward.
First, it is estimated that 2/3 of the delegates from the United States voted for the One Church Plan, which received 47% of the vote. Although the church in America is growing more united in a desire for inclusivity, the rest of the world continues to strive to maintain our current position. Of the 864 delegates, 43% are from overseas. The takeaway: we are a very divided church and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.
Second, although the Traditional Plan is a ‘win’ for those who support it because it attempts to tighten restrictions on same-sex weddings and LGBTQ+ clergy, the Judicial Council has deemed it largely unconstitutional. The takeaway from all my sources is that nothing major will change as result of the Traditional Plan. This is not going to change anything at the local level.
Third, no legislative body can change who we are at Arapaho UMC. We are fully welcoming of all LGBTQ+ people. We will continue to do the ministry God has called us to do. We will continue share the good news of Jesus Christ with all. We will continue to share the message of Christ’s inclusive love with all. We will continue to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead in guiding us to work for justice for all in our church and society. All means all.
I am so grateful to be part of a church that is such an authentic witness of the love of God in this world. As one of our day school parents said in a Facebook post: “(Our children) are welcomed every week and we leave them knowing they are loved and cared for while they are there. Thank you, AUMC for welcoming and loving the LGBTQ community.”
We welcome and love the LGBTQ+ community as God does. We worship a God who has never let anything get in the way of God’s love. Certainly what happened this week at General Conference can’t get in the way of God’s love.
What are our next steps now?
First, come to worship this Sunday at 8:30 or 11:00 am. We are concluding our Faith and Justice series with a sermon on the “Prophetic Imagination.” This is a message that I hope will inspire us to continue to work together make God’s vision of ‘thy kingdom come’ a reality.
Second, come to one of our “Listening and Learning Sessions” to hear more about the General Conference and to share your thoughts and ideas for what our collective response might be. These sessions will last one hour and take place in Room 4. Join me and Rev. Lisa Greenwood on Sunday, March 10 after worship, Sunday, March 17 after worship, or Wednesday, March 27 from 6:00 - 7:00 pm.
Third, join me in praying for our denomination. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have lost our way and loved doctrine more than people. May God forgive us and lead us into being the church God wants us to be.
We at Arapaho will continue to say to all persons: God loves you, accepts you and embraces you, and so do we. I hope you will share this message with all, especially our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, today.
Grace and Peace,