Below is a letter I wrote to my congregation regarding GC2019, the Judicial Council declaration and where we go from here.
A LOT has happened in the global United Methodist Church since our last newsletter. Specifically, the Special Session of General Conference met in February to determine the official UMC position on the issue of human sexuality, particularly homosexuality and its place in our church.
At the end of GC2019, we were left with what is called the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan keeps the current language surrounding homosexuality – that it is not compatible with Christian teaching – and includes language that increases penalties for clergy and laity that go against the Book of Discipline on these matters. It also further prevents candidacy and ordination for openly gay individuals. Finally, there is a provision making it easier for churches that cannot live in accordance with this decision to leave the denomination with their church buildings. Here at the end of April, the Judiciary Council met to determine the legality of the Traditional plan. Some parts were found to be against the UMC constitution while the parts I mentioned previously were found to be constitutional. As of January 1, 2020, the Traditional Plan will become United Methodist church law.
So, what does this mean for our local church?
It means that we have lost the ability to reach an entire group of people. Our churches can no longer be seen as safe places for the LGBTQ community…if they ever could. We have lost the talents of some brilliant people. We have lost the credibility to bring those people into a deeper relationship with God.
It means that we can no longer authentically proclaim that all are welcome here. Welcome for what? Their money? Their energy? Should we say, “Yes, your wallet and warm body are welcome here!” Or should we institute a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy so that we don’t have to be bothered with it? Remember, African Americans were welcomed on buses too so long as they sat in the back and shut their mouths.
This decision means these things….unless we stand up and say “NO MORE!” As your pastor, I am putting my neck on the chopping block with our denomination by determining to fight against the decision to exclude. If you’ve been at church in the past two months, then you have heard me doing this. I will continue to do this. I strongly encourage you to join me. Even if you believe homosexuality to be a sin, you can still stand up against this decision because WE ARE ALL SINNERS. Do not kid yourself into thinking that you are less of a sinner than a gay person merely because your sin isn’t the target right now. The same people who seek to single out the LGBTQ community today will be the ones who single you out for your sin in the future.
Our Church welcomes everybody. Period. We will include everybody. Period. We will provide every type of pastoral care to everybody. Period. We will do these things regardless of whether or not you agree with a person’s particular brand of sin. We will do these things because it is the loving and compassionate way of Christ.