On February 7 we had an important conversation on the Future of the United Methodist Church. We talked about the group that has already broken away, the Global Methodist Church. They are a group with a more traditional understanding of human sexuality and a more conservative approach to scripture. I shared how United Methodists have been arguing about homosexuality and our interpretation of scripture for over 50 years and the time has come for separation in the church. The United Methodist Church of which we are a part will continue, although no formal action will be taken by the United Methodist Church until the next General Conference in 2024. I appreciated all of the comments and questions that were shared at our congregational meeting on February 7 and our gracious willingness to listen to one another so well.
We all recognized that this is not an easy conversation to have. There are strong feelings for most of us. We also heard many different perspectives on matters of inclusion and homosexuality and the future direction of the church. It was clear that there are many viewpoints here at Lakeview, not simply those in favor of inclusion or those opposed, but many different viewpoints in between. Several of you filled out cards with comments or questions that I want to address. I will speak to a few each week. I would also ask you to take two steps with me. First, pray for our church, here at Lakeview, that we would always know and share God’s love with each other and God’s world around us. Second, join us for our next session on “Understanding the Bible and Homosexuality” that will be on March 13 at 2 pm in Smoot Hall.
Now to some questions you all asked.
Question: Do we really understand where LBGTQ persons are coming from? Do we understand their perspective?
Pastor Dave: This is an excellent question. First, let’s remember the LGBTQ community is very diverse itself. There is no single perspective. If you are not from the LGBTQ community (as I am not) then our perspective is very limited. We have no real idea of the pressures, the discrimination and judgment that have been experienced by those who are a different sexual orientation from our own. I have known many gay and lesbian Christians over the years who love God and Jesus Christ and are looking for a church community to grow in their faith, without the fear of being judged or condemned. I would agree it would be valuable for us to hear directly from someone in the LGBTQ community instead of simply assuming that we know their point of view.
Question: What is the position of the Global Methodist Church? I heard they are the conservative unit and the reason this decision is coming for the UMC is because our Conference is already ordaining LGBTQ persons?
Pastor Dave: The Global Methodist Church (GMC) formed last year and churches across the denomination are already joining (so far there have been no churches in our own Conference that have done this). They are a conservative group that will not allow for same-sex marriage in their churches or the ordination of gay or lesbian clergy. Many Annual Conferences (including our own) have already begun ordaining gay and lesbian folks, although the number is not large. Conferences in the West, Mid-west and the East have done so. These candidates for ministry must meet all of the theological and educational requirements by their Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to be eligible for ordination and must also be voted upon and approved by the clergy of their Conference.
Question: What happens under the “One Church Plan” when a church changes pastors? One pastor may feel one way and a new pastor see things entirely different. How will the conference handle the change?
The “One Church Plan” was proposed at the General Conference in 2019 to allow for variation across the church in regard to matters of same-sex marriage and ordination (for example, pastors would have been allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to perform same-sex weddings). This plan was defeated at General Conference.
If such a plan were approved in 2024, it could mean that when there is a change in pastors at a church, it would be important for the Staff Parish Relations Committee (SPRC) to talk through these matters with the District Superintendent before the selection of a new pastor is made by the Bishop. It would be important to talk this through with the new pastor when the “introduction” is made by the Superintendent to the SPRC, to make sure everyone is on the same page of understanding.