This February could well be a turning point for the United Methodist denomination. From February 23rd through the 26th, a thousand delegates from around the globe will gather in St. Louis for a specially called General Conference. This conference was called at the end of the 2016 General Conference when the delegates there were having trouble finding any common ground around the issues of human sexuality, specifically homosexuality. So, the council of bishops formed the Commission on a Way Forward. This group, made up of folks from all over the globe once again, was tasked with presenting some options to this specially called General Conference that would allow us to clarify our positions on homosexuality. Hopefully, through the work of the task force, we could find some common ground that would allow us to remain “united” as a denomination.
That Commission of a Way Forward met many times over the last couple of years, and have presented to the denomination two potential paths forward. One is called the Traditional Plan. It would, in essence, keep everything the same, except that it would call for greater accountability. Basically, the only thing that would change with this plan would be the enforcement of the disciplinary rules, which right now do not offer the possibility of ordination to self-avowed, practicing homosexuals. Also, greater enforcement of the ban on same sex weddings would be included in this plan. This plan is supported by a great many people within the denomination.
A second plan that is being seriously considered is the One Church Model. This way forward would allow for more contextualization on the part of conferences and local churches. If the leadership of a particular conference thought that ordination and full inclusion of the LGBTQ community made sense in the light of the context that they did ministry in, the leadership could choose to ordain gay and lesbian people. If another conference in a different context thought that ordination and inclusion of the LGBTQ community would not fit contextually in the areas they serve, then the leadership of that conference could refuse to ordain and include the LGBTQ community. This plan also allows for clergy to exercise their conscience when it comes to officiating at same sex weddings. If it violates one’s conscience to participate in same sex weddings, the clergy person is under no pressure to do so. But if a clergy person feels called to officiate at a same sex wedding, he or she will not be risking their ordination credentials.
As you can tell, this could well be a turning point in the life of our denomination. There are other plans that are being put forth, such as the Simple Plan that would remove all language in the Book of Discipline that refers to homosexuality, and would demand that the entire denomination grant full inclusion to the LGBTQ community. Unfortunately, that plan hasn’t gotten any traction. Another plan was put forth by the Commission on a Way Forward that had so many constitutional challenges with it that it, too, is not being taken very seriously. My personal belief is that the One Church Model will prevail. It’s very difficult in our global denomination to write one set of standards and rules that works for everyone. Contextualization allows for more flexibility while remaining united in our mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world. After all, that’s what being the church is all about.
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for February
We strive to make worship meaningful, relevant, and challenging each and every Sunday.You are challenged to make worship a regular part of your life. You are invited to take some time to read the Scripture and reflect on the passages before each worship service.
February 3rd: Love Is What Keeps Us Together! The Scripture passage will be 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and the theme will be love as the greatest spiritual gift.
February 10th: Catching People! The Scripture passage will be Luke 5:1-11, and the theme will be our call to evangelism.
February 17th: Like Trees Planted By the Waters! The Scripture will be Jeremiah 17:5-8 and the theme will be trusting in the Lord.
February 24th: An Alternative Ethic! The Scripture will be Luke 6:27-38 and the theme will be living the life Jesus calls us to.
March 3rd: A Turning Point? The Scripture will be Acts 11:1-18 and the theme will be what the actions of General Conference mean to us.
Worship is a vital part of a growing and vibrant faith. So make sure you attend on a regular basis. And bring a friend or two with you. It’s a great way to introduce someone to Jesus.
Centralia First United Methodist Church 506 S Washington Ave 98531 360-736-7311