Over the last two weeks, I have engaged many of you in a rich and meaningful conversation about The United Methodist Church and its ongoing debate about the status and role of LGBTQ persons. Thank you to those with whom I have spoken for your openness and thoughtful questions. I know this is a challenging topic and I appreciate the respect and honest inquiry I have encountered thus far. Such values will continue to serve us well. While I have been with many of you in person, I write today to place all of us as a church on the same page regarding this denominational conversation.
Our bishops, collectively on Friday, May 4, recommended a change in our current posture as a denomination; a recommendation called the “One Church Model.” According to that recommendation, the denomination would leave decisions about same-sex weddings and ordinations to local clergy, churches, and Annual Conferences. This would decentralize our regulations, creating a patchwork of policies that the bishops hope will allow churches, clergy, and annual conferences to remain true to their consciences regarding their convictions about human sexuality.
It’s important to note that no change has yet occurred to our policy. At the present time, we continue to have our denomination-wide ban on the use of our facilities and our pastors for same-sex weddings and on the ordination of LGBTQ persons by our Annual Conferences. A special General Conference will take up the recommendation of the bishops in February of 2019. They are the only authority in our denominational structure that can make a change to our policy.
As you can imagine, this is a complex issue with a long history and passion on both sides. The recommendation of the bishops and the coming General Conference bring this issue to a head for our denomination. It is my goal that we be as informed as possible on what the bishops are calling our “Way Forward” so that we are as prepared as possible should any changes occur. Beginning today, please visit eastmanfirst.com/wayforward to stay up to date with the latest developments. I have already placed several links to articles and informative web pages and will continue to do so as more information becomes available.
Starting in August, I will also be offering an adult Confirmation class. We will focus on the basics of Methodism, including our denominational structure. Part of being informed on this issue is understanding how we operate as The United Methodist Church. Several of you requested such a class and I’m excited to offer it! We’ll do much of what the youth did, but with an eye toward understanding the current state of our denomination. This will be offered on Wednesday evenings, once a month, August through December. Send me an email or text if you’d like to sign-up.
I have also made plans to attend the February, 2019, General Conference. While I am not a voting delegate, I will be assisting our Annual Conference with communications and witnessing the proceedings. I expect to make a report of my experience there when I return from St. Louis in early March of next year.
As your pastor, I will continue to engage us in thoughtful conversation about how we, as a local congregation, fit into this larger debate. I ask you for your prayerful commitment for our bishops, our General Conference, and our denomination as a whole.
In the mean time, I believe that we our best days as a church are in front of us. There are great things happening in the present, we are seeing lives impacted for Christ and the enthusiasm of this church impacting our community. No matter what happens on the denominational level, I believe that we will continue to thrive as a congregation.
I remain available for your questions, concerns, or comments. Please call me, text me, or email me as those arise. If you would like for me to come and speak to your small group or Sunday School class, let me know and I will make time on my schedule.