Listen to Pastor Gary’s reflection here:
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:28-29
Dear Sugar River Family,
We have been working through the story of Abraham and Sarah over the last several weeks in worship. Abraham and Sarah’s faithfulness is inspiring, and we identify them as the parents of our faith. They had their messy family issues, and our denominational family is a bit messy at times as well. Sugar River UMC continues to share the love of Christ with all people, and affirm the sacred worth of every person. Here is an update on the denominational conference.
The special General Conference of The United Methodist Church concluded its meeting Tuesday afternoon, February 26th. The General Conference, which is the top lawmaking assembly, was comprised of 864 delegates — about 58 percent from the United States and 30 percent from Africa. The remaining delegates are from the Philippines, Europe and Eurasia.
The focus for this special session centered on the denomination’s current stance to ban “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-gender weddings. The debate was intense. Several plans for the church to move forward were presented.
The One Church Plan, created with the hope of keeping the denomination united, would allow annual conferences, congregations, and clergy greater flexibility to make decisions based on individual and communal convictions regarding inclusion. This plan, endorsed by the Council of Bishops, failed to make it out of the legislative session on Monday but was able to be brought back to the floor on Tuesday, as a minority report. Although receiving approximately 2/3 of the American delegation’s support, it did not pass.
Eventually, the Traditional Plan passed (438 to 384). This plan affirms the Church’s current ban on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-gender marriages. However, some parts of the Traditional Plan have been ruled unconstitutional and must be reviewed by the Judicial Council.
The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will rule during its regularly scheduled meeting, April 23-25, 2019, in Evanston, IL. We will not know until after that what portions of the Traditional Plan are actually valid and constitutional and what portions of the plan will be enacted. It is likely that the Council of Bishops will also be requesting a decision about the exit plans (opportunity for local congregations to leave the denomination) passed late Tuesday afternoon of General Conference.
Just what the General Council accomplished will not be clarified for at least two months. Our leadership board will be discussing the implications of this for our church family at our meeting on Monday, March 4th and in the months to come. I also invite you to contact me if you have questions or concerns about this issue. Please know that you are loved unconditionally in God’s eyes and in mine. We are still Sugar River UMC, and we pray to move forward as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ…even when the family life is a bit messy. Please continue to be in prayer for our denomination.