Updates following Judicial Council Ruling

Dear Church,

Many of you have heard that a ruling has been made by the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church regarding the decisions made at General Conference 2019. I’m writing to update you about what this means for First Church.

Basically, the Judicial Council ruling determined that parts of the “Traditional Plan” are in line with the Church Constitution, and other parts are not. The end result is some (but not all) increased enforcement of rules and penalties against those who violate the church’s ban on same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ people. In another ruling, the Judicial Council determined that a plan for congregations to exit the denomination is constitutional under certain conditions. This ruling opens an easier pathway for congregations to leave the UMC without giving up their property. If you’d like more detailed information about these rulings, check out this article.

Many of you have asked what I think about all of this. Personally, I find the ruling about the “Traditional Plan” unsurprising; it is consistent with previous rulings about that plan. Furthermore, I believe that, no matter what ruling was issued, FUMC’s stance remains consistent. We continue to believe that every person is a beloved child of God, on a journey toward God, with God. We desire for all people to have access to God’s gift of love as expressed in marriage, and we desire for the Church to experience God’s gifts through the ordained ministry of LGBTQ+ pastors. Now, more than ever, we are committed to resist the efforts of some in the UMC to withhold these gifts.

I remind you that First United Methodist Church exists for the sake of the world that God loves. Our calling is to submit ourselves to the work of God within and around us, and we are doing that in many different ministries, serving a wide variety of people. The full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQ+ people is not “what we do,” it is part of who we are, and so that inclusiveness pervades all of our ministries, just like our core values. These are our siblings, and we simply do not fit in a church body that does not allow them to be fully included. So we will resist and continue to work to develop a Methodist movement in which we can fully live into our mission.

Our “Moving Forward” Task Force continues to prepare information and recommendations for the Administrative Board on May 19 regarding our response to General Conference. You’ll hear more from our leaders at that time. In the meantime, do not be discouraged! Our witness is making a difference; just take a look at this email from one of our neighbors:

Dear Pastor Taylor,
I live across the street at the Westgate. I want to tell you what a tremendous witness you are making with the rainbow colors on the front of the church and the We Dissent sign. Not a day goes by when, either driving or walking by, that I do not see at least one person taking pictures of the columns as well as the sign. As a gay man who married a generational Methodist, I am very proud of the progressive Methodist churches in Austin. My husband and I do follow the challenges facing the church and pray for continued dialog and conversation. Many blessings to you and to your congregation.

Blessings to you indeed, First Church. I love you, I’m proud to be your Pastor, and I trust that God will continue to guide us through these days.
With great love,
Pastor Taylor