For those who did not hear my messages on Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, a special General Conference had been scheduled in St. Louis to determine the way human sexuality would be addressed by our worldwide church, particularly with regard to those in the LGBTQ community. As I write this, we have just received word that the global gathering has voted to keep our denomination essentially where we have been for several decades by adopting the church’s “Traditionalist Plan.” Of course many of us are saddened and disappointed by this outcome.
However, does this result change who we are as a church family? Not one bit! Our own congregation here in Redding became a “reconciling congregation” about 5 years ago. This means that we have sought to be fully inclusive and welcoming of LGBTQ individuals in ALL aspects of our church life and ministry – and we will continue to do so!
Yesterday I appreciated a Facebook post from my friend and colleague Pastor Kris Marshall. She wrote: “Don’t freak out. Take some deep breaths… [loving one another] means our behavior is not predicated on other people’s behavior toward us… Even when they make decisions that affect us. Even when they break our hearts. Our choice is the same: we love.
At the end of this conference, we’ll all choose how we love. There will be some changes ahead in how we [are in relationship] to others who also call themselves United Methodists, but we will choose to love in a way that is best for our context and our understanding of our great [United Methodist] tradition. There is great freedom in that kind of faithfulness. Don’t let the macro sour you on the day to day relationships we build, on the “heart to heart” work we do, and on the community we care about.”
The vote at General Conference came through a 53% majority of delegates who were present. It represents the fact that as a global church there is a great spectrum of theological diversity among us. However we are also part of the “Western Jurisdiction” of United Methodist churches (essentially the western third of the United States). Hundreds of our sister churches and annual conferences in the Western U.S. and elsewhere seek to be inclusive to all people as we do. As I said in my message on Feb. 17: “If the traditional plan prevails, we as a congregation are still in alignment with hundreds of other United Methodist churches throughout our denomination, — and we will take the steps necessary to continue that shared inclusive ministry.”
In the near future, our Bishop and our Cal-Nevada delegation will be sharing information, reflections and guidance for our road ahead. In the meanwhile, let us do all that we can to care for and heal the pain felt by our LGBTQ sisters and brothers. Know that God’s great love is bigger even than these divisive concerns, and that love will continue to be lived out daily and weekly in our church family.