Updates From Upstairs - Part 2
Updates From Upstairs
This is the 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.
I have two big things I want to talk about today. First, an update on the listening sessions that happened in May. As some of you may have heard, I decided to excuse myself from those listening sessions because I felt I could not participate in good faith. A few weeks prior I received some very bad news about the financial burdens placed on Churches that would like to leave for the GMC. I was frustrated and disappointed that the financial situation was prohibiting churches from leaving if they wanted to. I decided to step back until I could process this bad news and not speak from a place of anger. I did collect myself later and sent out a few notes to keep people informed.
As of right now, the options for the future of our church are actually quite limited. Even if we WANTED to vote to join the Global Methodist Church – we cannot because of the financial hurdles. HOWEVER, we will be having an all church meeting in September to discuss this issue and take a survey poll to get a feel for the will of this congregation. This will be a VERY important meeting, and I encourage everyone to make time to have their voice heard. The leadership of this church will make significant and impactful decisions based on what we learn from that town hall meeting at the end of the summer. Secondly, I wanted to address another question I have heard a lot during these conversations. Over and over I have heard, “Will LGBTQ people be welcome in the Global Methodist Church?” or “If I am LGBTQ will I have to leave this church?” I want to be VERY clear. The CURRENT policies of the church on LGBTQ inclusion will remain almost identical if a church joins the Global Methodist Church. If you were able to be in this church yesterday, and if you enjoy being in this church today – you WILL be welcome to stay in a Global Methodist Church as well. The United Methodist Church is currently a DEEPLY traditional church, and the Global Methodist Church is seeking to carry on that legacy. One thing that has become a key refrain for me is “We are voting on denominational policies, we are NOT voting on whether or not we love one another.”
But let’s dive a little deeper on that - what ARE the UMC policies? In our Book of Discipline, in a section called “The Social Principles” under a sub-heading called “The Nurturing Community” there is a paragraph on Human Sexuality. It’s too long to include here, but I’d like to highlight some important parts:
It starts, “We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift.” Notice that we do not start the conversation with shame or blame, but that we emphasize sexuality as a gift from God that we need to steward responsibly.
It continues, “We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” I want you to really hear these words. EVERYONE, no matter who you are attracted to, or what choices you have made in your life – you are of sacred worth and created by a God who loves you.
It continues, “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” The theology here means that I will never perform a same sex marriage, but I want you to hear the heart written into this. We do NOT reject someone because of their attractions. We are called to love ALL LGBTQ brothers and sisters and offer them the same grace from God that every single one of us needs. A disagreement on sexual ethics is not intended to be a rejection of an entire person. I want to call all of you – regardless of where you stand on LGBTQ inclusion to welcome and love ALL people into God’s grace. You’ll see more on this as we move forward as a church, but for now, I’m looking forward to the future.