[This is a Nov 18 update of the post. For more information on the subject, you can go to the United Methodist Church website.]
This is my opinion, not the opinion of my church, of any committees I might sit on, of any activity groups I might be in, of my family, or of my friends…just mine: The United Methodist Church needs to delete or modify section 161.g. of the Book of Discipline and recognize that ALL people, regardless of their sexuality, are welcome into all aspects of the Church.
For the first time, perhaps the first time ever, the United Methodist Church (UMC) is having a “Special” General Conference on February 23-26, 2019, it’s special because normally these conferences only happen every 4 years…the same year as presidential elections. UMC is having this special conference because the church is divided about how to treat LGBTQ people and they want to deal with this issue by itself before the regularly scheduled conference in 2020.
The conference is the gathering of representatives from ALL of the worldwide UMC and one of the products of this conference is the “Book of Discipline” which is sort of the UMC book of law, policy, and church life. In this book, the policy of the church is laid out and then implemented throughout the worldwide church. Currently, the Book of Discipline, hence the official position of the entire UMC, is that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching (Book of Discipline, Section 161.g.) This has been an issue for a long time but has become more visible and contentious in the last decade or so, especially since the Supreme Court ruled that homosexual marriage is okay. Not unlike America and the rest of the world, the UMC is divided between what are called “conservatives” or “traditionalists” and “progressives.”
The traditionalists deny that all people are God’s people. The progressives would welcome all to the table. While conservative traditionalists might welcome everyone through the door, they do not allow anyone from the gay community to recognize a call to the UMC ministry, to be married in the UMC, or fully experience the life of the church. Progressives would allow members of the LGBTQ community to marry in the church, for UMC pastors to perform gay weddings, and for LGBTQ to be in the clergy. Some conservatives don’t necessarily oppose LGBTQ but do say that since the formal Book of Discipline says, no gays in certain places/circumstances, the clergy is responsible for ensuring that gays are not married, in the clergy, or have any UMC pastor perform a gay wedding.
There’s no silver bullet solution to this issue. Both sides claim scriptural foundation. Both sides claim the greater good. Both sides claim Holy Spirit guidance. But….. Both sides will not compromise. There are five, maybe more, plans. The overarching philosophy of this is called, “The Way Forward.” The goal of the Bishops (who are the UMC leaders and there are LOTS of Bishops) is that the UMC should stay united. They have, therefore, proposed five plans that exist on the spectrum of full conservative to full progressive. A sixth plan exists…stay the same. The sixth plan is probably the one that will win because if none of the other plans gets a majority of the votes of those at the conference, there will be no change.
I am not optimistic. It’s not that long ago that in my state blacks and whites weren’t allowed to marry. Conservatives are typically wealthier, older folks who grew up in a time when equality was gender and race based. In Africa, which is the fastest growing UMC area, homosexuality is culturally taboo regardless of the reality of its existence. So where may it end when the Special Conference adjourns on February 26, 2019? Who knows but I’m guessing the UMC will change, perhaps dramatically. The central UMC entity actually “owns” all of the real estate and property of each and every UMC place of worship so a local church just can’t “leave.” I’m guessing that this will end up in the courts for years and years as fights over property and assets demonstrates Christianity in the 21st century.
So, the bottom line for all Methodists…there are people from your church who will be going to the Special Conference in February 2019. Did you know that? Do you know who those representatives are? Do they know what you think about this issue.
For me, it’s sad, a continuation of people bashing that’s been getting more popular for quite a while. I strongly urge the inclusion of everyone into the church. All aspects of the church. Galatians 3:25-29: 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.