Responding to General Conference
Dear First Church,
I want to share a few updates with you regarding our response following the 2019 General Conference a couple weeks ago.
Our Executive Team met on Wednesday, March 13, and we had a thorough discussion about our congregational response. A few key items coming out of that discussion:
- As a group, we voted to approve a new rainbow logo (see above) for use at the discretion of the staff and leadership. In the words of one team member, “Our physical front steps reflect this message; why shouldn’t our digital front steps also?” We hope you love it as much as we do.
- We voted to create a General Conference 2019 Response task force. This group’s initial task is to report to the Administrative Board on May 19 with recommendations for how our church can respond immediately, with special attention to recommendations regarding apportionment payments and further action on marriage equality.
- We’ve asked Robbie Ausley to chair this task force, and she has graciously agreed. Their work will begin as soon as possible.
- One option that group will consider is a change in our apportionment giving. With that in mind, the Executive Team voted to withhold apportionment payments immediately to allow the Administrative Board to make a decision regarding apportionments at their May 19th meeting.
Meanwhile, response continues throughout the worldwide UMC. Newspaper ads, online statements, open letters, and a variety of beautiful and creative responses have confirmed that a majority of United Methodists in the U.S. are opposed to the actions of the General Conference. Even those who are not ready to be openly affirming feel that the decision to support the Traditional Plan is wrong; at the very least, they want to heed John Wesley’s first general rule to “Do no harm.”
In seminary, Pastors learn that the only body that has the ability to speak on behalf of the United Methodist Church is the General Conference. Yet everywhere we look for the past two weeks, we see expressions of millions who dissent, and who will not allow this decision to be the voice of United Methodism. We are part of that voice of dissent, and we will continue to play a part in the movement forward, both to seek change in the UMC, and to prepare for a new form of Methodism if such change is not possible. Later this month, I will travel to participate in a small gathering of Bishops, agency and conference leaders, large church pastors, and key laity to lay the groundwork for a new movement in Methodism. I look forward to sharing about that ongoing effort as it unfolds.
Finally, many of you are wondering, “What can I do?” Here are my best responses to that question today:
- Continue to support and be involved in your ministry at FUMC. We are in the middle of this conversation and effort for change because of you—because you have committed to build this thriving community where we invite others to know the love of God and join God in transforming the world. Being a thriving, progressive, downtown church is a key part of FUMC’s witness, and our ministry must continue to this city.
- Join the groups of clergy and laity who are mobilizing to respond within the Rio Texas Conference. If you would like to be a part of lay organization efforts in the Rio Texas Conference, please sign up here to show your interest.
- Share with your United Methodist friends the importance of letting their pastor know how they feel. Many pastors are unsure of where their congregation members stand; fear of opposition and splitting the church causes them to keep silent. On the other hand, churches where laity—especially leaders—come out in support of LGBTQ equality often find that there is greater support than anyone realized. Someone must speak—encourage your friends to do so!
- Become a Reconciling United Methodist, if you haven’t already. This organization is a key player in this work of witness and in plans to move forward; they need our support.
- If you have questions about GC 2019, read Pastor Michael’s thorough FAQ responses or watch our initial debriefing meeting here (keep in mind that the debriefing occurred only 5 days after General Conference; some things may have changed since then).
Finally, one last thing you can do: lean into your faith and relationship with God. Many of us continue to be hurt by the decisions of General Conference. Some are personally traumatized, and others are hurting alongside friends and family members. All of us long for change. These experiences drain us spiritually, and you may be feeling burnt out, done with church. I urge you to find ways to reconnect with God and receive God’s grace for these days. Take a retreat. Take a break from Facebook. Spend intentional time in nature to soak up God’s presence. Pick up your Lenten devotional book again. Take time for prayer. Listen to music that connects you with God and fills your soul. On our own, we do not have energy to sustain us through the process of healing and moving forward through these tough times. I urge you to dip your bucket into the living water that Christ offers.
I pray for you every day, First Church. God has been faithfully present for all our days; I trust that God will continue to guide us into the future. There’s no one I’d rather be doing this with than you. Thank you for your support and encouragement these last few weeks.
Grace and Peace to you. See you tomorrow! (Right? Right? :))