Updates From Upstairs - Part 1
Updates From Upstairs
This is a new section of our newsletter, where I (Pastor JJ) will try to keep you informed on some of the denominational kerfuffles going on at the district and global levels. These are very important conversations, but do not necessarily affect the day-to-day work of church life.
As many of you know there is an upcoming split in the United Methodist Denomination as the Global Methodist Church will be launching on May 1st. Once the Global Methodist Church launches, churches and clergy have several options for how they may transfer into that new denomination.
I can imagine that you might have a LOT of questions about what this means and how these things will come together. Thankfully – our District Superintendent has put together a series of Listening Sessions in May for folks to answer those questions. The Rev. John Hice (the District Superintendent), Rev. Jeremy Peters (of Court Street UMC in Flint), Rev. Greg Timmons (of Calvary UMC) and myself will be the panelist for the listening sessions.
The dates and times are as follows:
May 15 – 2pm, at Swartz Creek UMC
May 15 – 5:30pm, at Clarkston UMC (also available on ZOOM)
May 22 – 3pm, at Port Huron UMC
I am hopeful that these sessions will be informative, respectful and helpful for clergy and laity to understand the options of what lies ahead.
The last thing I wanted to include in this section is just a brief word on how we treat one another in the midst of disagreements. No matter what happens in the discussions ahead – at no point will anyone be asked to leave this church. I’m not going to lose my home, and nobody is going to lock the doors and keep people out. (these are some of the silly rumors I have heard floating around). We are voting on denominational policies – not on whether or not we love one another. As we have done every day up to this point, and will continue to do for many, many years – we must love one another, even in the midst of differences and disagreements. Whether you want the rules to change or stay the same – the one common denominator for HOW we have these conversations must be love.
One way I want to encourage you all to make love your priority in these conversations is to imagine that you are being overheard. If you are critiquing a conservative position – imagine that a conservative person is sitting in the pew behind you listening. If you are critiquing a progressive or LGBTQ+ affirming position – imagine that there is a gay person sitting at the next table in the fellowship hall and they can hear every word. I am not saying we should be secretive or quiet with what we say. Say things boldly, and as loudly as you’d like – but say them as if the person you were talking about was sitting in the room. These conversations are not abstract ideas – these are real flesh and blood people with feelings. When you say something about LGBTQ+ people – remember that you are talking about someone’s daughter, or grandson or uncle or brother. When you critique traditionalist perspectives and throw around words like “homophobic” – remember that you are talking about your neighbor, your grandfather, or your friend. A good rule of thumb to keep love a priority in these conversations is to imagine that the words your use are being heard by all sides – because very likely they are.
Another thing I want to be very clear about as we move forward is that we can be excited about the Global Methodist Church without attacking the United Methodist Church. We are capable of having these conversations, even having disagreements, without hurting one another. Despite the fact that I am very excited about what the Global Methodist Church is doing and I am eager to get started with that work – I will always have a love for the United Methodist Church. This is the denomination I grew up in. This is the church that introduced me to Jesus! Where I joined the youth Choir and went on mission trips. The UMC ordained me as a Pastor. It is what I have known my entire life, and I will always have a special place for the UMC in my heart. My prayer is that we may engage respectfully, bless one another continually, and move on excitedly to the work of creating disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. You’ll see more on this as we move forward as a church, but for now, I’m looking forward to the future.