Yesterday, the specially called General Conference of the United Methodist Church concluded in St. Louis. The main topic of conversation was how we as a denomination would move forward on the issue of human sexuality. Of all the plans prepared and presented, the Traditional Plan was passed. This plan keeps to the language currently in our Book of Discipline on this subject.
Our Bishop, Ken Carter, released a statement yesterday that we want to share with you:
Dear Florida Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Some are grateful for the results of the Special Session. And others sought a different outcome. All of this will take some time to process. Human sexuality is a topic on which our people have differing views. As evidenced by the vote of the special session, we are a global church with very different contexts. We were not able to achieve contextual differentiation as envisioned by the Commission on a Way Forward. By a majority vote, we passed the Traditional Plan, with some parts ruled unconstitutional. It now goes to the Judicial Council for review at their next meeting but our existing Discipline language is maintained.
We are a global church. This is a great gift in that God blesses us with diversity and the gospel is lived and shared across cultures. This is a great challenge in that we have different understandings of the LGBTQ community and, indeed, the LGBTQ persons in our own churches.
By a majority, the U.S. church seems to favor the One Church Plan that would have more openly welcomed pastors from the LGBTQ community and allowed for same-sex marriage. And, an overwhelming majority of the Council of Bishops endorsed the One Church Plan.
I am a person of evangelical and orthodox faith and respect those who see this primarily as a matter of scriptural interpretation. I will continue to live my promises of consecration as a bishop by abiding by the Book of Discipline as a resource for oversight and supervision in support of the church’s mission (BOD ¶403).
Some believe the arc of history is moving towards more acceptance of LGBTQ people, not less. Pew Research teaches us that younger generations in the U.S., especially under 45 and more so under 30, will not participate in a church that rejects the LGBTQ community. A letter from United Methodists under the age of 35 was shared at the Special Session, with over 15,500 signatories. A greater number of LGBTQ voices were heard on the floor of the Special Session than ever before. Many of these were younger voices.
I offer the following words to the LGBTQ community:
Please know that you are of sacred worth. You are not the problem. You are not "out there." You are present in our churches. You bless us with your faith and your gifts strengthen the church. And my calling, for you and all people, is to remove the obstacles to your experience of the grace of God, and especially in the life of The United Methodist Church.
I also offer these words to the evangelical community:
Please know that your faith is a great gift to God and to your local churches. Too often, your stances have been misunderstood as driven by hatred, as opposed to being of deeply held faith. Your lives have been changed by the good news of Jesus, and you have a deep desire that others know this grace. Our denomination is blessed by you and needs your gifts in our calling to share God’s love across the world. Our conference includes at every level of leadership evangelicals who are of the utmost integrity.
We remain a denomination that is open to people of all nations, ethnic groups, ages, and sexual orientations. We hope to find better ways to embrace our diversity and be on mission together. Our POV process continues to be a resource available to you.
Despite our differences, we will continue to work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and to share God’s love with all people.
The peace of the Lord,
+Ken Carter Bishop, Florida Conference
There are a few other resources that we would like to share with you from this past week. One is the Bishop's message delivered at the opening worship service on Saturday morning. It speaks to the great strength we have as a body united.
The next is an opportunity this Friday at 11 A.M. to hear from our Bishop and members of the Florida Delegation as they host a webinar to talk about General Conference. It is free to watch, but you do have to register. You can find more information and the link to register by clicking here.
The final one is an invitation to join the Chair of our Leadership Council, Dave Withers, this Sunday at 6:30pm in the Fellowship Hall for an information session.
We hope these resources keep you well informed and we look forward to many years of working together for the Kingdom of God!
Pastors Debbie, Daryl, and Loida