I’m sure by now you have heard the news regarding the Special Session of the United Methodist General Conference that concluded yesterday in St. Louis. Press reports have been ugly.
Here are my thoughts:
- The church’s position on the question of full inclusion of LGBTQ persons has not changed. While the denomination recognizes all humans of divine worth it considers of homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching. While this is a debatable point, biblically, it is inconceivable to me to label one behavior and not make a fuller list of all behaviors that are incompatible (Greed, Lust, Anger, come to mind).
The bottom line is a continuing ban on the ordination of Gays and Lesbians and a continuing ban on performing same sex marriages by UM pastors or in UM churches. The above incompatible phrase, added in 1972, remains in the Discipline.
I am deeply distressed by the obvious anguish of LGBTQ friends and neighbors and brokenhearted at our inability as a denomination to find a better way forward.
- What has changed is a tightening of penalties for those who refuse to comply. While I think it is important to keep the rules of my covenant, I find these new rules mean spirited and profoundly unhelpful.
- I am reminded that the United Methodist church is global in scope and am grateful for this global connection. However 40% of the delegates at General Conference are from outside the U.S. and they are frequently from countries where this subject is taboo and in many places still illegal. Their votes carried the day.
- The ministry at Erwin First will continue to be open to All. Period. We are all in need of grace and the church is a hospital for the broken NOT an enclave of the self-identified righteous.
- Many have threatened to withdraw their membership in UM churches over these issues, and, frankly, I don’t blame them. However, we have a ministry to proclaim hope and redemption and restoration in the name of Jesus and now, more than ever, it is vital that we do so. I will continue to do so and work for change.
Finally, my friends and family, God still loves you all. I love all of you and am praying for us as we move forward.