Initial Thoughts from General Conference 2019

"You're still processing, aren't you.?"
- Christy Drenner, the evening of Tuesday, February 24

She knows me so well!

Christy wanted to break down the General Conference's vote to approve the Traditional Plan, which maintains the denomination's language regarding the practice of homosexuality, including bans on ordination and hosting same gender weddings. I wasn't ready. I needed space to grieve for my LGBTQ friends who feel ostracized and betrayed. I needed space to rage against an institution that obviously does not represent my understanding of theology and the practice of ministry. I needed to grieve the obvious brokenness of my United Methodist sisters and brothers who cannot find space for those who disagree.

If you'd like further reading from me on this issue, check out this blogpost from three years ago. It also includes links to more blogposts on this issue.

Here are a few thoughts on the United Methodist General Conference of 2019. I'll have more to say Sunday morning in my sermon-- I will post that message in this space following worship. And we are working on setting up a time where members of Grace UMC can come together to share reactions.

I believed two things in the years/months/weeks/days/hours leading up to the special called General Conference:

  1. The General Conference is not healthy enough to produce meaningful change on behalf of a global denomination of 12 million or so people.
  2. Whatever prediction I could offer would be wrong, so openly discussing beforehand would produce more harm than good.
Still, I was hopeful, because of the One Church Plan, a model for the UMC that would allow local congregations, individual pastors, and annual conferences to make decisions that best reflected their beliefs. Those decisions would be local-- not binding for everyone. For example, Grace could decide to host same sex weddings; I could decide not to preside; North Texas could ordain openly gay persons called to ministry. That model created space for every individual pastor, church, and conference. It didn't even make it to the floor.

After having 24 hours to reflect, here are my initial thoughts:
  1. This question is not closed. Not by a long shot. If anything, something new and beautiful is being birthed.
  2. We cannot keep sending the same people to represent the denomination if we anticipate change. And if we are yearning for younger, more diverse people in our churches, they need to be anointed leaders to speak for us.
  3. I will not serve a church that is against things or people. I will only serve a church that is for and with people.
As I mature in faith and ministry, I am less inclined than when I was younger to run around with hair on fire when news comes down that I find troubling. Someone asked yesterday if I would ever consider leaving the United Methodist Church. I answered yes. I will always be a Wesleyan, but I serve the Lord of the Church, not the denomination. I am not a "pick up my toys and play elsewhere when I do not get my way," kind of person. But I will also not be a part of an organization that violates its most basic principles: Do No Harm/ Do Good/ Attend to the Ordinances of God. I believe the Traditional Plan, with its punitive measures that will almost certainly be rendered unconstitutional, violates these General Rules.

We can do better. We have to. We will.