I’ve been trying to figure something out.How does one move forward by going backwards?Confused?I’m thinking about the results that have come out of the 2019 General Conference that just ended on February 26th.The delegates there voted to endorse the Traditional Plan moving forward.This specially called General Conference was supposed to help us figure out how we can remain united as a denomination while embracing the differences of opinion surrounding human sexuality (primarily homosexuality) that exist within our church.The Commission on a Way Forward was formed at the end of the 2016 General Conference.They had been meeting over the last couple of years trying to find common ground on this issue.The plan that was endorsed by over 70% of the council of bishops was the One Church Model, which allowed for annual conferences and individual churches and pastors to operate contextually.They also came up with a modified Traditional Plan as an option.
But the plan that won the day was neither of those.The plan that won the day basically doesn’t change anything.It only increases enforcement of the rules that are already in the Book of Discipline, the rules that are the source of the tension in the church to begin with.As I examine the results that have come out of General Conference, it seems clear to me that the majority of the delegates present chose the least compassionate, least grace-filled plan available to them.It seems to have been the plan of a majority of delegates to alienate and exclude the more progressive voice of the denomination.It seems to me that they arrived in St. Louis with the intention of forcing a schism.That’s why the first two legislative items they voted on were regarding the pension fund, and exit plans for churches wanting to leave the denomination.They wanted to make it easier for churches to exit the denomination and keep their facilities.I’m not sure they ever intended to seek a way forward.I think their plan all along was to go backwards.
So, what does this mean for the denomination, and for our conference and our church?I can’t answer that question yet.It would appear, though, that the conservative faction of the church will be purging the church of the progressive faction (which is at least 45% of the denomination based on the voting records of General Conference).Nobody wins in a schism.
I can tell you this, though, people are going to get hurt.I grieve for my LGBTQ colleagues because I think they will soon find themselves brought up on charges and forced out of ministry.I grieve for my denomination because I no longer recognize it as the church I grew up in.I would often tell others who were interested in joining the UMC that one of the great things about United Methodism is that you are allowed to think for yourself.I would brag about the big umbrella that was the United Methodist church.There was always room for diverse opinions.I used to illustrate this wide umbrella by mentioning two people: George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton, both of whom are United Methodists.I’m afraid that umbrella will no longer exist.I’m afraid diversity will be purged from the denomination.And I’m certain we will not be better for it.
There is still a lot up in the air.Our upcoming Annual Conference in June may provide some answers.But in the meantime, we need to continue to be the body of Christ for the Centralia area. We need to continue to offer people a safe place in which all persons are truly welcomed and valued for who they are.We need to continue to live out the inclusive ministry that Jesus started, and that was continued by the first disciples.We need to continue to offer people Jesus, because only Jesus can truly transform hearts and minds.That’s what I intend to do.I’ll see you in church (I hope!).
Sermon Texts, Themes, and Titles for March
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.
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.
March 10th: The Temptation of the Shortcut! The Scripture will be Luke 4:1-13 and the theme will be choosing the hard way.
March 17th: Hedging Our Bets! The Scripture will be Genesis 15:1-6; and Genesis 16:1-1-3, and the theme will be trusting in God.
March 24th: A Fair Trade! The Scripture will be Isaiah 55:1-9 and the theme will be repentance.
March 31st: Being Lost Stinks! The Scripture will be Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 and the theme will be finding our way home.
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