WUMC friends –
This week at the UMC General Conference in St. Louis, the One Church Plan which most reconciling UMCs hoped would move our church toward more inclusivity, did not get the majority. And the Traditionalist Plan, offering a continued prohibition on same gender weddings and ordination of LGBTQ persons, was passed . This plan does not only hold the status quo, it is more punitive and exclusionary. For me, and for many of you, this is a devastating outcome. Personally, I feel like the ground below me has shifted considerably and I’m trying to find my foothold on the rock of God’s hope and love. What makes this more complex, is that the Traditionalist Plan has also been ruled unconstitutional as to our United Methodist Discipline. Still, 54% of our delegates at General Conference voted to pass it. So this plan will be sent back to the UMC Judicial Council for a ruling. And likely nothing in policy will change until the General Conference in May 2020. On Saturday, Gerald Ensley, our Lay Leader and Sarah Tudisco, our Pastor Parish Relations Chair, and I will go to a meeting with the bishop and cabinet to understand what is happening.
First, let me say to our LGBTQ Woodlawn family, I know this is painful and I’m so sorry you are at the center of this wretched fight in our denomination. I’m sorry that the place where you should be able to escape persecution and disparaging remarks continues to inflict hurt. While our congregation is a UMC local church, we will not change from what we have been for so long – a faith community loving wholly, serving openly and living in hope. Our doors and hearts of love for each no matter their background, station in life, race, creed, sexuality or identity remain open wide. This is how we experience and express Jesus’ love.
Second, please know there will be options for us to consider. As the United Methodist denomination finds their path forward, there may be opportunities for reconciling churches to find another path. Nothing is certain right now and by no means am I suggesting that we leave the denomination. Our church will move forward guided by the Holy Spirit and you, the people of the church. Theologian Richard Rohr has wisely said, “There is no direct flight from order to reorder. There is usually a layover in disorder.” So we are in disorder now. While we are here, it make be dark and confusing but that doesn’t mean that light and resurrection won’t follow.
Third, what complicates my heartache is that my grandad is near the end of his life. I am going to Arkansas for a couple of days, but my plan is to be at the bishop’s meeting Saturday and worship with you Sunday. If I can’t, Pastor Melissa will of course, step in to lead. I’m pretty attached to y’all, so I don’t want to be away unless necessary. And you can reach me by phone (907-0986) or email if you need to.
Lastly, come to church. Come be with each other. We need each other. Come add your voice and energy in worship. Come to the Fat Tuesday Pancake Supper and Ash Wednesday service next week. This Sunday, March 3rd at 3:00 p.m. there is a gathering of United Methodist Churches in our area who are open and inclusive. We are planning a time to lament with each other, answer questions and find fellowship with people working for the same kind of church. We are all invited to be there.
I love you all, and more importantly, God loves you. Let us not forget that God is bigger than our church, our denomination and any human expression.
Peace and Blessings –