This has been a very busy fall. As an elected delegate to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences, meetings and conversations have begun. Although legislation will not be released until the beginning of the year I believe it is important to establish, build, and foster relationships now, so that we may be better prepared to address legislation when it comes.
- Fact: we do not know what the outcome of General Conference 2020 will be.
- Fact: The result of General Conference 2020 will affect all United Methodist Churches as there is going to be a split of some sort.
- Either the decisions of the special session General Conference 2019 will stand and a good number of centrist as well as the progressives will leave, or
- New decisions will be made that will overturn all/some of the 2019 decisions and the traditionalist will leave, or
- Decisions will be made to split in order to move through this issue on homosexuality, thus, ultimately some type of split will happen.
It has been reported that there are some churches that do not believe that this has anything to do with them. They will just continue to operate as they have been doing. Likewise there are some pastors who are not informing or updating their congregations of what is happening. While I do believe that this argument on homosexuality is a means for the evil one to divide us and keep our focus off of just loving and doing ministry for God’s people, I am aware that it will bring an unknown change in how we go about loving and doing the ministry for God’s people. That is to say we may no longer have the current structure to operate the way that we have been. If/When there is a split, churches are going to have to decide where they will fall. Decisions will have to be made on the properties and acquisitions that presently the Conferences own. And since the church is the assembly of people, individuals will have to make a decision on what comes before them. This is why I believe it is important to establish, build, and foster relationships now in an effort to be proactive.
This has been the motivation behind creating times for us to come together and talk before the 2019 General Conference. And it continues to be my motivation behind finding ways to have these conversations as well as get to know people’s “what” and “why” they believe what they do. The latest efforts occurred when I was lead during a Sunday worship to help us not assume where people stand on the issue but to begin to know where they may be and begin conversations with one another. In worship I asked for people to physically place themselves where they thought they were: traditionalist, traditionalist compatibilist (However, I now use the term “plus” as I do not want to suggest that if you are not a compatibilist you are incompatible. Besides it’s easier to say plus than compatibilist!), progressive “plus” and progressive. The “plus” means you lean one way but want to include those who lean the other way. Now mind you, the whole reason for doing this was not to showcase the divisions between us or put people on the spot but rather to recognize and acknowledge the where people are for the sole purpose of building relationships through intentional conversations with those who differ in view on this issue. I thought it was absolutely glorious! No body walked out or gave me a stern talking to even though I know many felt very uncomfortable and/or unsure of this. I know there have been some conversations about what happened and I also know there are those who valued this witness. I pray and continue to encourage you to enter into conversations with others around this issue. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I pray in the end we all realize that each of us is too valuable not to be part of the whole and we must treat one another likewise as it’s not our job to separate the chaff from the wheat but God’s.
Since this event I was asked, “What about those who were not in attendance that Sunday. Who will they know who to talk with?” I would personally love to talk with you and through individual permission I can connect you with those individuals to begin conversations. Nothing will be done without individual consent as we want to lovingly respect people. I am also hoping to create something special in future worship that will allow us to hear from different perspectives especially after legislation is out. I need to hear from you!
Finally, I want to say, I was asked where do I stand on this issue? I answer that two ways:
Personally, I definitely grew up a traditionalist and later moved into the traditionalist plus area. But now find myself leaning progressive plus. As your pastor, I stand in the middle of it all with Christ praying that just as Christ is our mediator, I might be a representation of that work for the glory of God. It is not my work but the work of the One who uses me to fulfil it. Pray that I may be in Christ and Christ in me!