We are living in times of tremendous opportunity and tremendous challenge.
We at First Church are part of the larger United Methodist Church. We are a connectional church which ultimately means we believe we are better together than apart. Therefore we seek to live in connection with our brothers and sisters around the world to the best of our ability. Over the last few decades there has been increased conversation around the issue of sexuality in the United Methodist Church and how it is best understood from a Biblical witness. This issue has become such a divisive one that a specially called General Conference is being held in St. Louis, Missouri on February 23-26 to deal with this one issue.
The General Conference is the primary legislative body of the United Methodist Church. It is the only body that speaks officially for the church. It is comprised of an international body of delegates (of which I am one) that represents annual conferences around the world. Half of the members are clergy and the other half are laity. This is where the church’s official stances and church policies are made regarding issues such as human sexuality.
Normally the General Conference only meets once every 4 years, but in response to the divisiveness of the sexuality issue, it is meeting for a specially-called session from February 23-26. At this gathering the 864 delegates from around the world will seek to come to a decision about how the United Methodist Church moves forward. Various plans have been put forth to vote upon, but these plans will be subject to change and revision once they are “on the floor” of General Conference. The plans range in scope from affirming the traditional understanding of sexuality (which is the current stance of the UMC) to more progressive stances. No one knows what will happen at this specially-called General Conference. Plans that have already been put forth may be adopted as is, proposed plans may be adopted but with revisions, a new plan may be put forth and approved, or perhaps no plan will receive enough support to be passed.
At this time, there are a number of ways you can be involved in this time of discernment. Some of these include:
• Praying with others: The UMC has called a Day of Prayer for 2/23 to pray for the General Conference and for increased effectiveness for the church to fulfill the church’s mission.
• Praying on your own: Areas of prayer to lift up would involve humble hearts… the elimination of “agendas”… reconciliation… good communication… the Bishops… the delegates…. wisdom… guidance… focus… the Holy Spirit to be at work around the tables… and most of all that God’s will be done.
• Seeking clarity: Feel free to join me on either Thursday, February 28 from 7:00PM – 8:30PM or Sunday, March 3 from 2:00PM – 3:30PM at the North Campus Sanctuary for a time of questions and discussion as I give feedback on what happened at General Conference.
• Committing more than ever to experience Transformation In Christ where lives are changed inside and out: No matter what happens at General Conference we will not be distracted in our vision or focus. We are going to continue to focus on following Jesus to the best of our ability.
I know that no matter what happens at the upcoming General Conference, God’s church will continue to move and grow. I am thrilled to be a part of that church with YOU, First Church. God is doing incredible things through First Church. In the weeks to come, I will be sharing some of those exciting realities with you as we continue to live into being one church with a focus on being both gathered and sent at the same time.
Thank you for your prayers, your support, and most of all your commitment to Jesus in this time, First Church. I am truly humbled to walk with you.