Thoughts on the Special General Conference

Dear Friends,
 
There’s a wonderful hymn entitled, “God, When Human Bonds Are Broken”. The first verse of the hymns reads:
 
God, when human bonds are broken, and we lack the love or skill
To restore the hope of healing, give us grace and make us still…
Give us faith to be more faithful, give us hope to be more true,
Give us love to go on learning: God, encourage and renew.
 
Without a doubt, these words speak to many aspects of our current world. Today they resonate especially with our denomination – the United Methodist Church.
 
Early this week the 2019 General Conference, the UMC’s highest legislative body, voted to affirm the denomination’s current prohibitions of “ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriage.” There are numerous articles you can read about this decision at the official United Methodist Church News website.
 
This Special General Conference (SGC) had been called for this issue only. In the end, delegates turned away from a plan recommended by the Council of Bishops, which allowed for diversity in local practice, to embrace instead another proposed “Traditional Plan.” The voting results were 436 (53%) in favor of the Traditional Plan and 386 (47%) opposed.
 
Many in attendance at the SGC, throughout our denomination, and some even within our own congregation, have been asking, “What does this mean?” The answer is yet unknown. The implications of the decisions made at the SGC are not yet fully apparent. The Judicial Council must review controversial provisions later this year, and in any case the rippling consequences for our life together as the UMC will take much longer to work themselves out. It will take time.
 
However, what we do know now is that the conclusion of this process has not brought the greater unity for which so many throughout the denomination had hoped, longed, and prayed for. Regardless of which way the delegates voted at the SGC there would have be a true sense of hurt, betrayal, disappointment, grief, and anger among a select group of Methodists. As I watched the impassioned debates on the plenary floor in St. Louis, I recognized all of these emotions in the delegates – throughout the debates and at the conclusion of them.
 
What we do know now is that there is a significant number of our brothers and sisters throughout the denomination who are deeply hurting, angry, disappointed, and saddened. This is not about winners and losers and never should be viewed as such. Regardless of how one feels about the outcome of the vote, all Methodists are encouraged and expected to lift these hurting brothers and sisters up in prayer.
 
What does mean for First United Methodist Church in Lindstrom? I don’t know. There may be some of our friends and members who decide they can no longer continue living out their faith as a member of the UMC and choose to seek another denomination to become a part of. I will understand if this is a decision some need to make. However, I would appreciate meeting with any who may feel the need to make such a decision, so that I can pray with and for you.
 
On Monday, March 11 I am attending a gathering of other MN Annual Conference clergy to meet with Bishop Ough and to hear his summary and debriefing of the SGC. Information and resources will be provided to all clergy that day to bring back to our congregations for conversation.
 
I have scheduled an informational meeting regarding this decision of the SGC the following Sunday, March 17, at 11:00 a.m. in the church sanctuary. The purpose of this meeting will not be to debate again the issues already voted on at the SGC, but rather will be to inform, discuss the potential implications the decision may have on our congregation, and to pray. Any uncivil or disrespectful conversation will not be tolerated as we strive instead to demonstrate love and respect for one another despite differences of opinion.
 
To conclude, I invite you watch this video summary of the SGC delivered by Bishop Ough that the District has prepared for congregations throughout the MN Annual Conference.
 
Grace and peace,
 

Pr. Dale