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Now that General Conference has come and goneby John Weston on March 6, 2019
Now that General Conference has come and gone
If you haven't heard yet, a special called session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church met last week in St. Louis, MO and eventually passed an amended version of what is called “The Traditional Plan” regarding the UMC's stance on human sexuality. The special meeting was convened in order for the denomination to find some way forward through the impasse surrounding disagreements over human sexuality. The Traditional Plan upholds scriptural and traditional teachings about marriage and keeps the church in line with the vast majority of Christian denominations globally, even attempting to enforce discipline over these matters. However, an increasing number of United Methodists in the United States favor widening the definition of marriage beyond heterosexual unions. Last week's decision was another major defeat for progressives, though only by six points (53% for and 47% against). What this means for our local church, which has historically aligned itself with a strongly traditional faith and doctrine, is that we will not, by the current state of things, be forced to officially sanction behavior that is expressly condemned in the Old and New Testaments. Along with the Traditional Plan, a “Disaffiliation Plan” was also passed which is an attempt to provide a “gracious exit” for churches that cannot in good conscience support General Conference's final decision. The exit plan was passed with the intention of protecting either progressive or traditionalist congregations who might need to leave if their favored plan was not passed, that the church should be a coalition of the willing, not the constrained. The Disaffiliation Plan, however, was amended to require 2/3 majority approval at a local church conference as well as a 2/3 approval vote by the Annual Conference. This requirement would effectively nullify the provision for churches trying to leave in cases where a local church was in a theological minority in their Annual Conference region. These are the very basic facts of the outcome.
Even though I, like many of us, feel very strongly about these issues, I want to provide as much information as possible for all of you to make up your own minds, and should we disagree, let it be an informed disagreement.
Here are some helpful links that cover the spectrum from conservative (Wesleyan Covenant Association) to Progressive (Western Jurisdiction of the UMC):
Church leaders in the first century had to contend with competing voices trying to take the church in different directions. Paul planted a lot of churches, networked those churches, and did his best to hold them on course. Listen to his observation:
Ephesians 4:11-16 (NOG) 11 He also gave apostles, prophets, missionaries, as well as pastors and teachers as gifts to his church. 12 Their purpose is to prepare God’s people to serve and to build up the body of Christ. 13 This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God’s Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard. 14 Then we will no longer be little children, tossed and carried about by all kinds of teachings that change like the wind. We will no longer be influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray. 15 Instead, as we lovingly speak the truth, we will grow up completely in our relationship to Christ, who is the head. 16 He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Are the changes being introduced to the United Methodist Church “uniting us in our faith and in our knowledge about God's Son...” (v. 13)? Or are are they “influenced by people who use cunning and clever strategies to lead us astray” (v. 14)?
As you explore the links above you will see divergent views on what it means to be the church. Here in Silverdale, we are looking to the future and formulating strategy to grow us spiritually (v. 15) and numerically (v. 16). There are opportunities everywhere.
It has always been about Jesus!