Pastor’s Corner: May 2018

So, the Council of Bishops ended their week of prayer, discernment and decision making on what the direction of the United Methodist Church will look like in the near future. The primary topic was what to do with the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline, specifically in the “Social Principles” where homosexuality is seen as “incompatible” with the Christian life. 

I’ve included a portion of the statement the Council of Bishops released to the worldwide church and the press:

Guided by the mission, vision and scope document, the bishops agreed to recommend the One Church Plan. This plan provides conferences, churches, and pastors the flexibility to uniquely reach their missional context while retaining the connectional nature of The United Methodist Church.

The One Church Plan allows for contextualization of language about human sexuality in support of the mission; and allows for central conferences, especially those in Africa, to retain their disciplinary authority to adapt the Book of Discipline and continue to include traditional language and values while fulfilling the vision of a global and multicultural church.

This plan also encourages a generous unity by giving United Methodists the ability to address different missional contexts in ways that reflect their theological convictions. The One Church Plan removes the restrictive language of the Book of Discipline and adds assurances to pastors and Conferences who due to their theological convictions cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain self-avowed practicing homosexuals.

Here’s my take on the decision. 

I am yet again disappointed by the Bishops. There is no real decision and no real clarity of where the UMC now stands on full inclusion of LGBTQ persons.  It feels like the Bishops are sending a mixed message by voting to present ALL THREE “plans” to the Special Session of the General Conference in 2019 yet recommending acceptance of “The One Church Plan.”  I could be misreading the statement, but it appears to pass the inclusion issue back to the wider membership with no real vision for change.

They could have been prophetic. I wanted them to be prophetic. I believe the Spirit is calling all Christian Churches to be prophetic and to live out Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Yes, change comes hard and slow, especially in churches – and even more so in churches with the kind of structure the UMC has. This may be a tiny baby step forward to becoming a fully inclusive, truly reconciling denomination. However, it still allows regional UMC churches and their members to continue to discriminate and even discipline LGBTQ persons and supporting clergy. The inequality and injustice is allowed to continue.  

Jan Lawrence, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, writes,

None of the options considered by the commission and set forward to the Council of Bishops provides equity and justice to the LGBTQ community or welcomes and celebrates the lives {callings and ministries – MMW addition} of LGBTQ people. 

I’ll have more to share as I have a chance to consider this decision more deeply.  

Pastor Chellie

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