A Church for Everyone

05/09/18

I love The United Methodist Church for many reasons, especially since it has been my church all my life.  It is not without cracks in its structure and practice, but I continue to find it the best for me of all the alternatives.

 

For most of us, “church” is just the congregation where we attend.  United Methodism is much more than that, spanning the world with congregations that reflect many cultures and historical backgrounds.

 

Currently, there is controversy in Methodism about LGBTQ issues.  Despite the fact that United Methodists have historically been an “umbrella” church, encompassing many diverse people and beliefs, there are some who believe negatively about full inclusion of LGBTQ people, including clergy.

 

This began officially in 1972 when the General Conference inserted in The Book of Discipline the phrase “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  In subsequent General Conferences, restrictions were added to prohibit “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” as clergy and prohibiting the celebration of same-sex unions by clergy and in United Methodist buildings.

 

Despite this, numerous congregations and clergy, including Genesis, have made the decision to fully include LGBTQ persons in their ministry.  I am one of the many clergy who have publicly declared that I will provide pastoral services to everyone.

 

Why am I discussing this now?  The disagreement about this issue has reached the point where there will be a special General Conference in February 2019 to resolve this matter. Our bishops have led the way in helping to prepare a proposal that will prevent our denomination from splitting over the issue.

 

Last week, the bishops announced that they are still divided on the issue and want to continue respecting the beliefs of all United Methodists.  However, they are proposing to the February General Conference that an “Open Church” model be adopted in which individuals and congregations may follow their own convictions on this matter.  It would remove any restrictive language from our Book of Discipline, and permit Genesis and other progressive churches to pursue continued ministry to all persons.

 

This is a wonderful break through.  We won’t know until February whether the worldwide United Methodist Church will adopt the proposal, but we are very hopeful. We ask all of you who pray for a truly open church to surround the whole process in prayer, and to continue to advocate for a church for all persons.  Your incoming pastor Tommy Boutell and I certainly are of one mind on this issue.

 

If you have questions or concerns about this, please let me know.  We need progressive persons to remain in The United Methodist Church advocating for this change.

 

Pastor John Ross

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