Peace be with you!
In recent days, you may have seen The United Methodist Church (UMC) in the national news. Articles and reports surfaced in a number of venues on the work of an ad hoc group of Bishops, denominational leaders, and special interest group leaders who presented a proposal (“Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation”) for our next General Conference which will occur this May in Minneapolis. Some of the reporting on this group’s proposals was accurate and some was not.
The ad hoc group was continuing a conversation regarding human sexuality that has been ongoing in our denomination for nearly 50 years. The ad hoc group presented another proposal which they believe might help our United Methodist Church deal with the issues of human sexuality, the current language in The Book of Discipline which states “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian teaching,” and the current restrictions in The Book of Discipline concerning the ordination of homosexuals and the forbidding of United Methodist clergy in officiating in marriage ceremonies of same gender persons. Their proposal did not include any legislation to General Conference 2020. However, the proposal did include the creation of a new denomination. If you wish to know more about the proposal, you can do so at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/diverse-leaders-group-offers-separation-plan.
As you know, no person, group, agency, or entity can speak for the UMC except for The General Conference of the UMC. Thus reports that the UMC had chosen or voted “to split” were totally inaccurate. The truth is, the group which made headlines last week was announcing a proposal they intend to offer to General Conference 2020. No one knows whether their proposal for the UMC, and subsequently, a new denomination will be adopted by the delegates to General Conference. I invite you to stay informed of all the proposals to General Conference and the activities of General Conference through United Methodist News Service (https://www.umnews.org/en) and the United Methodist Church website (https://www.umc.org/). Our Annual Conference website is also an excellent way to keep informed (https://www.awfumc.org/).
In the past year, several proposals have already been announced and will certainly be prayerfully considered by the delegates at General Conference. These delegates are comprised of an equal number of clergy and laity from each Annual Conference in the UMC. Our Annual Conference will send 5 laypersons and 5 clergy who were elected at our Annual Conference in June of 2018. Bishops help facilitate General Conference but do not have any voting rights at General Conference.
As you might suspect, the approximately 1,000 delegates who will be in attendance at General Conference in May come from around the world and hold diverse opinions about issues of human sexuality and the future of the UMC. Many of the delegates maintain very conservative views. Many maintain very progressive views. And many maintain very centrist views. Together, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they will lead our Wesleyan family forward.
Like General Conference, our faith family at First United Methodist Church in Dothan is also a diverse group of Christ-followers. We too have members who are very conservative. We also have members who are very progressive. And we have many members who are very centrist. Thankfully, we have always found ways to worship, serve, grow and make disciples of Jesus Christ together!
Under the glass of my office desk, sits a little note that has been there since the day I arrived in Dothan. The saying on the note has encouraged me and guided me time and time again. It simply says: “Keep The Main Thing The Main Thing.” In the days ahead, I pray each member of our community of faith will “keep the main thing the main thing.” I pray we stay centered in and focused on Jesus. I pray we remain focused on “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” I pray we keep reaching out in extraordinary ways in our community and the world. I pray we keep extending invitations to people to be a part of our caring congregation. I pray we continue to love, cherish and respect both those with whom we agree and those with whom we disagree. I
pray we keep following the great commission of Jesus to “make disciples of all nations.” I pray we continue to love God
and to love others.
Thanks for the honor of serving Christ with you. Together, we are making a difference in this world that God loves so dearly.
Inhale Faith; Exhale Fear.