Update Post General Conference 2019
FUMC Huntsville Family,
I am headed back to Huntsville now after spending the last week at the Special Called Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church.
I am still processing the past days here in St. Louis but wanted to write a brief note to tell you a few things about what happened, why it matters and how we go forward from here.
What? The Traditional Plan maintaining the church's long held prohibition of same-sex
weddings and the ordination of "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" with added
accountability and enforcement was passed with 54% of the delegates voting in favor. The One Church Plan which sought to allow local congregations and annual congregations to make decisions related to homosexual marriage and ordination according to their context failed with only 45% of the delegates voting in favor. There also passed a "gracious exit plan" allowing congregations who cannot operate under enacted restrictions to leave without great penalty.
So what? Since the days when our founder John Wesley sent Thomas Coke and Francis
Asbury as missionaries to the American colonies, Methodism has been an international
denomination. Over the past three hundred years as Methodist evangelists have preached the gospel of Jesus Christ from New York to Nairobi it has become increasingly so. Now, of the world's 12.7 million United Methodists, 40% live outside of the United States, especially
concentrated in Africa, the Philippines and Eastern Europe. With this beautiful diversity in
ethnicity, nationality and language comes increased differences in the application of the gospel based on the culture and climate of the region. United Methodists from Madisonville to Manila, worship the same God but they worship differently. No matter where call we call the United Methodist Church our home, we read God's Word in our native tongues, but our interpretation and application of the Bible varies through the lens of our shared tradition, reason and unique experiences of God's Holy Spirit. On the particular interpretation of the Scriptures related to homosexuality, there are good hearted, God-loving United Methodists who seek to follow Jesus Christ and live their lives according to the Word who simply view things a world apart. We love alike, but we do not think alike.
But we are still called to love and the proving ground of that love will be how we treat one another at home, with our family at First United Methodist Church Huntsville, Texas. The United Methodist Church does not condemn gay people nor those who call them family and friends. FUMC will continue to be a sanctuary where all will be welcome, all will be loved and all can receive the grace of God. You will show your love by the way you treat the members of your Sunday School classes and small groups, the people next to you in the pews and the way you serve the entire community of Walker County proclaiming that that all are welcome to receive God's grace by the way you live and love.
Now what? Much remains to be seen. As it is there is much more to be processed and
decided and our regularly scheduled General Conference in Minneapolis, MN in 2020 will
continue these conversations in light of what happened this week and what the next weeks
and months bring. Today there are many United Methodists who are grieving what they
understand to be an exclusive and unloving decision made by the General Conference. As Paul reminds us in Romans 12, we grieve with those who grieve. No one who truly loves God can gloat over the loss felt by their brother or sister in Christ. We pray for The United Methodist Church in its crisis and know that the Holy Spirit will continue to lead. As one of my colleagues said, God never wastes a crisis. And I truly believe that even in a difficult time for many in the United Methodist Church God will work for the good of all.
I will do my best to lead our congregation through this season and I will keep you updated as I deem most appropriate and helpful. I welcome any conversation with any of you and I appreciate your prayers as we seek to love all with the grace and compassion of Jesus Christ.
I am praying for you and I am blessed to be your pastor,
In one month from today, lay and clergy representatives of the world's 13 million United Methodists will gather in St. Louis for a special called session of the General Conference to consider petitions related to human sexuality specifically homosexual ordination and marriage.
Over the past two years since the conclusion of the 2016 General Conference, three primary proposals have emerged and will be considered at this year's Conference. Our Bishop, Scott Jones, has led the Texas Annual Conference to a clearer understanding of what is at stake and what the future may hold. Our Annual Conference has created an excellent website which includes many helpful links, documents and assessments from our Bishop and the UMC. I invite you to read through these and become informed.
There are faithful and prayerful United Methodists with a variety of understandings of human sexuality, interpretations of Scripture, and plans for the best way forward. This is true in the global UMC and in our own local church.
What will remain true is that FUMC will continue to follow Jesus and do amazing work for His kingdom in Huntsville and beyond. Our mission and our ministry will not change.
In order to better inform you, I will be holding a presentation on the three plans on Sunday, February 17th at 5 PM in the Sanctuary...Please note the February 3rd meeting has been cancelled.
I am praying for you and for our beloved United Methodist Church,