Today is January 4—only four days into the year, and we are already seeing important events unfolding around us. I am writing to give a brief update on happenings within the UMC, but I do so plainly aware of recent events in Baghdad, Iraq, and our call to be in prayer and conversation about these significant events, too. I hope you will join me in praying for peace and wisdom to prevail in the hearts of all leaders.
Meanwhile, a couple of updates regarding the UMC…
- On January 1, elements of the “Traditional Plan” passed by the February 2019 General Conference went into effect. In December, the Administrative Board of FUMC voted to join a group of churches in an open letter to the Bishops of the South Central Jurisdiction, declaring our determination to practice an inclusive ministry with our LGBTQ+ siblings. This letter restates much of what we have already affirmed: we will no longer abide by the unjust prohibitions of the Book of Discipline. I am deeply appreciative of our leaders who worked to make this happen during a busy time. This is a strong statement, and I am proud to have our church listed.
- Yesterday, a press release through the UMC Council of Bishops announced a proposal reached through a mediation process with many of the key leaders involved in the UMC conflict. This proposal, called “A Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” is being offered for consideration by the upcoming General Conference in May. It is one of many proposals coming to the body for consideration and possible legislative action. Unfortunately, secular news outlets narrated this proposal as if it was a “done deal,” causing great confusion for many. Nothing has been decided yet. At this point, this is simply one more possible plan to address the current impasse. It will need to go through many steps before it can even be considered by the body.
That said, this plan holds more sway than many others for a few reasons. First, it was achieved through a mediation process facilitated by highly respected experts in legal mediation. Unlike other proposals, this one includes financial recommendations. Also, the discussions that led to this proposal originated outside the United States, which may indicate a greater potential of support from delegates from around the world. Their votes will be important for any legislation we hope to pass. Finally, this proposal is being endorsed by groups across the theological spectrum. In sum, at first glance, it appears that this proposal stands a fair chance of passage at the General Conference in May.
In the interest of timely communication (and avoiding confusion), we are sending this email before I’ve had a chance to digest the full proposal, so I am unable to comment on its contents. It won’t be difficult to find many who wholeheartedly endorse it, and many who reject it, and I do not doubt there is validity in each of these opinions. My prayer is that you will take in these developments with a spirit of peace and wisdom, listening charitably and fully, always seeking God’s guidance for our way forward.
We are on a steady march toward General Conference in May. As we move through these months, you’ll see more and more news about the UMC; we will do our best to keep you updated and informed, and to give you opportunities to join in resisting the harm of LGBTQ+ exclusion.
In the meantime, I hope to see you tomorrow morning for worship as we open our new series on The Most Important Things that we can take, learn, and share from the Bible. We need these messages now, more than ever. See you tomorrow!
With great love,