Response to UMC General Conference 2019
For many United Methodists, this is a confusing time to “be the church”. After the Special General Conference this past February, many of us – myself included – have struggled with the mission to share God’s unconditional love with the world as conditions were placed upon it. How can we share the light and hope of Christ with ALL persons when the church we represent suggests ALL persons are not fully included?
I had the honor to witness this Special General Conference firsthand. I say “honor” because I believe God has called me in this moment for a reason. Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly traumatic to witness the church I love acting in such harmful ways, however, I’m not sure I would be so invigorated to lead if I hadn’t witnessed firsthand the brokenness of our denomination’s connectionalism in Christ.
In addition to my personal response directly following the General Conference, our church, Hopewell United Methodist Church, has responded in profound ways. We created a banner to share with the community to say loudly and clearly we are a welcoming, safe space for ALL. It reads:
The Administrative Team crafted and approved a new welcome statement based on the following Scripture passages:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:16
The welcome statement proclaims:
“No matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey, we join our voices with the welcome of God, whose love is unconditional and welcoming to all.
The believers, the unbelievers and those who are just not sure;
Those full of hope and those whose hope seems far away;
Those of any race and culture;
The infant, the toddler, the teen and the senior citizen, and every person in-between;
Those of any sexual orientation and any gender identity;
The single person, the married person, and the divorced person;
The families of all shapes, sizes, ages and groupings.
Those of any income level, education and class;
The physically fit and the physically challenged;
The immigrant, the citizen and the refugee;
Those who have been loved by the Church, and those who have been hurt by the Church;
ALL persons are beloved children of God.”
Our congregation and leadership teams came together to share our own personal testimonies and witness to the love that permeates this very church; an unconditional love that cannot be decimated by an institutional, governing body. And although many of us fall in various places on the theological spectrum concerning human sexuality, the church body agreed that sharing the love of Christ is more important than the harm inflicted with the Traditional Plan that was passed at the Special General Conference.
I have felt this love in unbelievable ways in the weeks and months following the Special General Conference and all I can think to say is “thank you”. Thank you to God for leading me to this amazing church, bursting with love for neighbor, and thank you to the congregation for continuing to display true discipleship amidst the turmoil. We will always BE the church here at Hopewell UMC.
So what comes next? Well institutionally, as a part of the United Methodist denomination, we wait. We wait for the Judicial Council to rule on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan in the end of April. We wait for the Greater NJ Annul Conference in May to see in what ways our Conference here in NJ can move forward. We wait until General Conference of 2020 for another plan to possibly be passed. But as we are forced to “wait” as a denomination, we are not forced to “wait” as Hopewell United Methodist Church.
We keep going.
We keep sharing the love of Christ in new and radical ways that we know to be true.
We “get loud” as one of our congregants suggested and continue to offer grace to ALL persons.
The United Methodist Church demonstrates great diversity as a global church, diversity in cultures as well as in biblical interpretation. However, when literal biblical interpretation is used to harm already marginalized communities, we stand in sacred resistance. We remember John Wesley’s three simple rules: Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.
Do no harm. Do good. And stay in love with God my friends, and I promise – the light of Christ will shine in glory through the darkness.
Stay in the Light,