As I shared a couple of weeks ago in an email sent to everyone on our list, the recent United Methodist General Conference made decisions that will keep the restrictions in our Book of Discipline dealing with same-sex marriages and the ordination of “self-avowed, practicing “ LGBTQIA persons (the so-called “Traditional Plan”). This plan was passed very narrowly over a plan that would have given churches, pastors, and annual conferences choices in how inclusive they wish to be toward the LGBTQIA community. In the midst of the uncertainty following the conference, Bishop David Bard of our Michigan Area has met with all pastors and also sent a letter to all churches (that was shared in worship at HUMC on March 3rd) and then a separate letter to all laypersons in leadership in our churches. I thought it would be helpful to share portions of this letter with all of you, for his words have great wisdom in these times of upheaval in our denomination:
“I know that that among (our) congregations there are a variety of reactions to General Conference, from pleased to pained, from deep disappointment to a deep sense of relief…the realities in our congregations are complicated…What most agree upon is that this is a challenging and difficult time for the UMC. Emotions continue to run high…How might we lead together in such a time as this? I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to lead from a place that acknowledges all the thoughts, feelings, and experiences within you and within the people in your places of ministry. I invite you to encourage others to such acknowledgement…The future may include a United Methodist Church that is no longer united. General Conference starkly revealed the depth of our divisions and some of the animosity they generate. Might those who seek more space for LGBTQIA persons and ministry with these persons seek a new expression of Methodism? Might those who fully support the Traditional Plan decide to do something new? Might there be as yet unexplored possibilities for a new kind of connectionalism? Uncertainty remains, but I am committed to thinking creatively with you and others about options in the midst of uncertainty…Though this is a difficult time for the UMC, with feelings running high and uncertainty in the air, the ministry to which God called all of us remains. Hungry people need feeding. Those mired in poverty need people to accompany them…People feeling unloved need to be loved and welcomed…”
As I shared in my earlier email, my commitment (and I’m sure yours too!) will continue to be that our church remain loving, welcoming, and inclusive of all of God’s children. I celebrate HUMC’s long tradition of having these values, and in these increasingly uncertain times (not just in our denomination) we must continue to follow the way of Jesus, who was and still is the embodiment of them.