PASTOR’S RESPONSE TO RECENT GENERAL CONFERENCE DECISIONS

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Siblings in Christ,

As you will remember, in February the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to uphold and strengthen sections of the United Methodist Book of Discipline that deal with our LGBTQ siblings. These sections exclude them from full participation in the life of our church. Further, this legislation, set to go in effect January 2020, adds punitive measures for clergy in non-compliance with the stated policies. 

Needless to say, this has been troubling for many and has set SUM on a journey not of our own choosing.  Nevertheless, we’ve ventured together in grace, peace and love to determine the best way forward. With those guidelines we’re certain that we will come out on the other side together, landing in a Christian place of grace, peace and love; Of this we are certain.

Throughout this season, the SUM community has demonstrated unparalleled compassion, warmth and love by modeling for each other exemplary Christian behavior through an unprecedented time of turmoil in uncharted territory.  We’ve honored John Wesley’s general rules to (1) Do no harm; (2) Do good; and (3) Stay in love with God. For this, we are grateful. We give thanks to all those who have showed up, who have engaged in learning and dialogue, and who have demonstrated loving kindness throughout the journey.

It’s also important at this point to express empathy for the stress we’ve all been working under and through.  We acknowledge that SUM has always been a place of love and inclusion. We are now, and always have been, a welcoming and loving environment.  Yet, we are in the middle of a denominational dispute that has caused us to shift our focus away from our numerous missions while we sort out this dilemma – together.

We also want to explain our desire to create space to allow all in the SUM community to learn, reflect and grow through dialog and personal interactions.  While some are further along in their understanding and growth than others, we’ve wanted to create opportunities for all who are interested in engaging in educational events that feature connection and Christian conversation.  Further, while we’re not there yet, we also recognize that at some point in the future, we will need to draw our reflections to a close and set our congregational direction.  

Please know that we are certain that an expression of Methodism that we can align with will emerge.  In other words, we will have a place to go, and it will be a calm and quiet place for SUM to land so that we can continue our work together.  As we work out SUM’s direction, the greater Methodist church is continuing to grapple with ways for the different Methodist expressions to, as Bishop Bickerton said, “bless and send.” We will keep an eye and ear on those developments so we can share them with you.

In the meantime, take this summer to continue your education, connection and dialogue.  Or simply unplug if that works better for you. In the Fall, we will come together to determine our direction, so that when the greater denomination discerns the multiple expressions of Methodism for the future, we can gracefully step into the one that is the best for us.  

Once again, we acknowledge the distraction and discomfort we are experiencing due to this situation.  Please know that pastoral support is available to help if you need it. Rev. Mel Kawakami, a licensed counselor, is a resource you can draw on, and our Stephen Ministers are also ready to walk alongside you providing spiritual calm and reassurance; simply contact Barbara Vasquenza. Whether you participate in a small group, a ministry team or have close friends, lean on your SUM family for support.  Additionally, we’ve included some helpful tips on managing stress in this newsletter.

SUM has always been committed to being a place where all are welcome.  No matter what happens, we will continue to be that place and continue to hold you in prayer. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, wherever you are from – you are loved and you will be welcome to fully participate in the life of our church. We started this together and we will come through this together – count on it.  God does.

On the Journey,

PG and DD