PASTOR’S RESPONSE TO RECENT GENERAL CONFERENCE DECISIONS
As many of you will already know, delegates from around the world gathered over the last few days in St. Louis, Missouri, to determine the United Methodist Church’s position on LGBTQ+ people. Four plans were advanced prior to the session (you can read about them here). Shortly before the session was due to end, the Traditional Plan, the most restrictive, was passed by a combination of delegates from some of the more conservative geographical areas of the United Methodist Church. Despite heavy dissent from the nearly half of the delegates who pressed for full inclusion, the Methodist church adopted a resolution which would strengthen its rules about those in the LGBTQ+ community. As of now, the entire proposal was referred to Judicial Council, which is the Methodist Church’s Supreme Court, because elements of the proposal might be unconstitutional.
Seeing this resolution pass broke my heart, but I can only imagine the pain experienced by those in the LGBTQ+ community who felt that the door to their full participation in the church had been closed. I thought of seminarians who had eagerly watched the proceedings to see if there was a place for them in this church that I love so well and that my family has served for four generations. I thought of my own family members who have left the church over its positions on human sexuality over the years. I thought about how to answer questions from all of you about what happened, what we will do and what I will, as your pastor, do.
Today, as I write this, I don’t know how all of that will turn out. So let me tell you what I do know. As of this moment nothing has changed in the day to day operations of the United Methodist church. More importantly, nothing has changed here at Simsbury UMC either. We still believe that God’s grace is available to all. We still believe that everyone is welcome no matter what you look like, what you think, whom you love, whether you’re wealthy or not, how old you are or whether you’re married, divorced or single. You have a home here, and this church will continue to be a safe place for all people as it has been for generations. I was very clear on Sunday that I stand for full inclusion, but I was equally clear that I believe my job is to be a pastor to all who worship here, live in this community or need my help.
Many of you may also be asking, “So what can I do?” First, I would ask you to continue to pray about this. I would encourage you to include all of the delegates who were tasked with the job of working on this decision, those who are deeply and personally affected by this decision and those in our faith community. Needless to say, the press coverage isn’t great and most of it has been very public, which will influence how people view Methodists. Now is not a time for us to shrink from our responsibilities as people who are called to love everyone, especially those we disagree with or who persecute us. Be mindful as you’re out and about that as a Methodist you represent the best of what this church has to offer, and that you may be the only person of love that someone sees today. As I see it, our collective responsibility is to continue to be people of love, hope, peace and grace to a world that needs all of those things. Our job is to continue to open our doors and welcome all people inside, just as we continue to spend time outside of our church walls functioning as the hands and feet of Christ.
On the Journey,
Additional Resources from our Bishop and the New York Annual Conference:
A video from Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton at the close of the 2019 Special General Conference in St. Louis can be found at this link.
The page reached here: https://www.nyac.com/special-called-general-conference contains additional details about the 2019 Special General Conference.