There is also good news for us in the West! The following text appeared in a paid advertisement in the Atlanta (Georgia) Journal-Constitution signed by 300 (!) United Methodist clergy in North Georgia, the heart of the UMCs Southeastern Jurisdiction (although certainly not all are members of the North Georgia Annual Conference).
A letter to our LGBTQ siblings and their allies:
As United Methodist pastors and church leaders in North Georgia, we write to acknowledge the harm done last week by the global gathering of the United Methodist Church known as General Conference. We grieve the actions of this General Conference, which tightened restrictions on the ordination of gay clergy and maintained prohibitions on our clergy performing same-sex weddings.
We say to our LGBTQ siblings: you are beloved children of God, and you are beloved by us. This action of the General Conference does not reflect our own hopes and dreams for the United Methodist Church. More importantly, we believe that it does not reflect the hopes and dreams of God.
It is notable that 70% of the General Conference delegates from the United States voted in favor of a more inclusive church. And yet, as a diverse and global church, we find ourselves in a situation where the denomination has perpetuated exclusion.
Too often, our silence as clergy has done harm. We commit to advocating and working for the full inclusion of all people in God's church. And we humbly ask for your prayers and forgiveness.
We believe that God is not yet finished working within the United Methodist Church. We hope that you can join us in this work, but we understand if you cannot. And we commit to working alongside God, as we weep alongside you.
With fervent prayer,
[signed by 300 United Methodist clergy who paid for this advertisement to be placed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday, May 3.]
Recording of Special Worship Service on March 3, 2019
Pasadena First United Methodist Church
Special Followup Worship after General Conference 2019
Pastoral Response to General Conference
February 27, 2019
There was a time I wore a t-shirt saying, “Thank God I’m a Methodist.” But not today. There was a time I was proud to say I was a United Methodist pastor. But not today.
Today it’s embarrassing, awkward, and excruciatingly painful to be a Methodist.
Yesterday, in case you didn’t hear, the ruling body in United Methodist Church, called the General Conference, voted to ban United Methodist pastors from performing same-sex weddings, outlawed LGBTQ persons from the clergy, acted as if LGBTQ persons have no sacred worth, and approved highly punitive measures on those clergy and churches who violate the new rules. And, while it was heartbreaking to many of us who have stood with and for LGBTQ persons, it was soul shattering for LGBTQ Methodist themselves.
Yesterday, the Methodist church voted in its own worst interest, and contrary to its deepest DNA. Too much fear combined with power, politics, and a static understanding of biblical revelation led to a rejection of the fundamental Methodist idea of grace. This is not the United Methodist Church that I love, was ordained into, and have served faithfully. Nor is it the church God has called us to be.
The lack of grace, compassion, and social justice is not only theologically appalling, but it also represents an emotional and spiritual betrayal that will haunt the church for decades.
I know there are Methodists who think this vote will strengthen the Church and keep biblical purity defended. But we have lost face and credibility. Even more crucial, the Church chose to follow a movement of retribution and restriction instead of openness and loving-kindness that God is surely calling us to embrace. I believe there were no shouts of joy in heaven over these votes, but rather tears over God’s heart being broken.
I know there will be many Methodists who feel they need to leave the United Methodist Church today. We need to support and bless and love all who are too hurt to stay. They have paid an extraordinarily high cost of staying in a place where others do not accept them. We need to add our tears to theirs and to the tears in Heaven.
I was thinking this morning of Jim Pirlo. Jim loved us all. He loved this church. He was crazy in love with life. He never met a Christmas ornament he didn’t like. The idea that God excluded him for being gay is ridiculous. Are you kidding me? I think God is just as crazy in love with life as Jim was. When Jim died, I bet God not only welcomed Jim home, but put him in charge of Heaven’s Christmas party.
I still want us to be the kind of church Jim wanted us to be: a place of joy, welcome, grace to all, and Hawaiian shirts. I think on Sunday that we should wear Hawaiian outfits, or dress in rainbow colors as a witness of support for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters in Christ. (I’ll be wearing a Hawaiian shirt that Jim gave me.)
In the days ahead, our church, Claremont United Methodist Church, and our annual conference, the California-Pacific Annual Conference, are going to have to decide where we stand as well. I don’t know what options the future holds, but I believe this congregation will follow the Spirit that is full of compassion, grace, and justice. Make it so.
P.S. The actions of the General Conference, approving the so-called Traditional Plan, have been appealed to the Judicial Council. Earlier, half of the plan had been ruled unconstitutional, and it remains to be seen what the plan outcome may look like. Both the Western Jurisdiction delegation and our Bishop, the Rev. Dr. Grant J. Hagiya, have posted responses. To read those responses, look further down the page.
Pastor Mark Wiley Claremont UMC Lead Pastor
GC2019 Bishop's Reflection:
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ!
By now you have probably all heard that the General Conference Special Called Session is now over, and the Traditional Plan prevailed (53% - 438 votes to 47% - 384 votes). Although it does have repressive ramifications to our LGBTQI community, the Judicial Council has ruled much of it unconstitutional. At the same time, this decision is also symbolic in its implications because it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion.
With this conservative turn, I have been deeply conflicted. The question is, “can I stay in a repressive and oppressive church with integrity?” After a sleepless night, I came to a new resolve. I believe I must stay in the UMC and lead our people within the geographical context we find ourselves in the West. We have been living the One Church Plan for decades, and I don’t see why we should change that about us. We live and let live and it is totally consistent with the theology of John Wesley.
We cannot turn back at this point. We have come too far to make this conservative stance. In fact, I don’t think that it is possible for us. I believe that even our more traditional churches have a deep tolerance based on our geography. I believe they know that we accept their theology and hopefully, we treat them the same as everyone else: with respect and dignity.
Now that the General Conference Special Called Session is over, it is time that we focus on what God is calling us to: Our mission and ministry in the very name of Jesus Christ! Nothing is more important than this. Nothing must distract us from this central purpose. Nothing must stand in the way of our ministries of compassion and care!
What I am calling us to do is to learn what God is trying to teach us through this Special Called Session and get to the business of being the church. We need to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to engage our local neighborhoods and surrounding communities. We need to feed the hungry, house the immigrant, heal the sick, and preach the Good News.
It is important for us to confess our sins and shortcomings: Too many have been hurt and harmed in our theological wars. Too many have been hurt and harmed by being objectified by the church. Too many have left the church because they have not been welcomed or cared for. If there has been anything I have done personally that has offended or harmed, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask for your forgiveness. I pray that we will all seek such confession and forgiveness.
Most of all, we must turn to each other for healing and care. It is time to put our arms around each other and heal from harming each other. It is time for us to have hearts of peace and not hearts of war. It is time for us to support each other and care for each other.
Being away so long in St. Louis has drained and exhausted me. I long to come home and be back in ministry with all of you. I long for home where I belong.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
February 28, 2019
Western Jurisdiction bishops offer a message of welcome As the 2019 General Conference comes to a close the episcopal leaders of the Western Jurisdiction offer a video message to the church saying,
"We will continue to be a home for all God's people centered around a table of reconciliation and transformation. We are not going anywhere."
Litany: A great thanksgiving during times of uncertainty Rev. Lydia Muñoz & Rev. James McIntire have crafted a litany that is available for use as communities of faith absorb the results of the recent General Conference session. A Great Thanksgiving During Times of Uncertainty speaks to feelings of disarray and brokenness.
Judicial Council issues revised deadlines for April meeting Evanston, Ill.: The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church has issued revised deadlines for its regular April meeting, April 23-26, 2019, in Evanston, Illinois.
The Judicial Council will publish the approved docket (a list of items to be discussed) for the meeting on or before March 9. Among the items that will be before the Judicial Council is a Petition for Declaratory Decision, approved by the legislative body of the Special Session of the General Conference, on the “constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of the Traditional Plan as amended.”
March 7 is the deadline for submittal by appropriate bodies (as defined by the Discipline) to submit requests for action by the Judicial Council.
During General Conference 2019 you have been receiving the WJ Update if you subscribed, or if you were already subscribed to one of email news lists of a Western Jurisdiction Conference.
As we move forward, we want to respect your choices in email and will now stop sending to those seven annual conference lists. But we don't want to lose you.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
At the 2019 Special Called Session of the General Conference, Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team made this statement on behalf of Western Jurisdiction Leadership:
"We have long appreciated the richness of the global diversity of our United Methodist Church and have embraced opportunities to join with you all in the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world. "We also understand the purpose of the Church to be in mission and ministry. Consequently, we in the West have been functioning for years as One Church committed to full inclusion, seeking to be a home for all God’s people. "Today we acknowledge the fracture of this body, yet we worship a God who tells us that the body of Christ has many parts, all equally valued. Rooted in Wesleyan tradition, grounded in Scripture and committed to mission and ministry, the Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children, across the theological and social spectrum. "We know from experience we are stronger when we live together as progressives, traditionalists and centrists in our Church. Many times during this Conference we have sung or prayed or blessed each other with the reminder that we need each other. Thank you."
Rev. Donna Pritchard
In two weeks, the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction will meet. We want to be clear that the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction believes in one church for all. Mission and ministry is too important. This is where we stand, we are not moving, we are not leaving, and we are not changing.
March 1, 2019
A Pastoral Letter to the United Methodist Church from the President of the Council of Bishops
+Where possible you are asked to read this brief letter in your morning worship service.
Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. (James 5:13-16 NRSV)To the Faithful Disciples of Jesus Christ who are the People of the United Methodist Church,
I read this passage of Scripture on our Day of Prayer, in St. Louis. I then reflected on these words with the Council of Bishops on the day after the Special Session of the General Conference, and I share them with you. In a time of division and challenge, with “fightings and fears, within, without”, we are in need of healing. The healing ministry of Jesus takes pain and suffer ing seriously. The scripture calls for the eldersofthechurchtoprayandanoint.
Intheancientspiritualtraditions,anointingisaboutsettingapart and healing, receiving power and gaining courage.
Every church I have known in my life has had spiritual elders, mature spiritual leaders who care for the body, that is the people God has called together in a place. I pray in this moment for mature spiritual leadershipamongtheclergyandlaityofourglobalchurch.
Ipraythatwewillmovetowardthepainand grief, and especially among our members in the LGBTQ community.
James does not call us to identify the sins of one another. He calls us to confess our sins to one another, and to pray for one another, so that we may be healed. Our mutual prayer and confession is for a larger purpose: our healing. And our healing is for an even greater purpose: that we might be "repairers of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12).
Through the power of the cross and the flame of the Holy Spirit, God demonstrates his love for all. May we be a means of grace to one another in these days.
The Peace of the Lord,
+Kenneth H. Carter, Jr. President,
Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church
Religion and Race General Secretary Erin Hawkins Responds to General Conference 2019
MARCH 1, 2019
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. – Isaiah 61:1
In April 1968, a newly formed United Methodist Church changed its practice of sanctioned discrimination and institutionalized segregation by ending the Central Jurisdiction which separated blacks and whites in the Methodist Episcopal Church. This action was taken in part due to the insistence of the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which proclaimed that it would not merge with Methodists if we held firm in our practice of systemic racism.
Fifty years later, the action of the Special Called Session of General Conference to support the Traditional Plan serves as proof that our comfort with sanctioned discrimination and exclusion has never left. The sin of white supremacy which has plagued the Methodist movement from its inception continues to reveal its dominance within both conservative and progressive camps of the Church.
My heart grieves for my Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) siblings who experienced the harm of continued rejection, insensitive and bigoted rhetoric, and emotional and spiritual disregard. I acknowledge your dedication to the church in spite of the oppression you face and respect any feelings of anger or betrayal that may lead some of you to walk away.
I also grieve for those traditionalists whose willingness to be in authentic dialogue and relationship was overshadowed by forces that corrupted the work of the General Conference.
Here’s what I know as a woman of color. Despite the changes of law in 1968, which intended to end the exclusion of blacks and other people of color in the life and witness of the church, systemic racism still plagues us. There are churches in the connection that still resist the appointment of pastors of color and actively reject their leadership. There are still Boards of Ordained Ministry and Cabinets who execute racial double standards in the credentialing of candidates for ordination and appointment. There is still a lack of focused attention in the denomination to reach growing communities of color in the United States and by extension to speak consistently and relevantly to the racial injustices that confront our world. Women are still seeking a change in The United Methodist Constitution to “guarantee” their inclusion. Simply put, changes in United Methodist law, while an essential first step, have not resulted in full inclusion for people of color and will not result in full inclusion for LGBTQIA+ people either.
There were Pharisees in Matthew 22 who sought to build a trap for Jesus using the law. To them, he replied that loving God and loving neighbor were the two greatest commandments on which all other laws and prophets hinged. Using the law as a weapon is an age-old tactic and Jesus reminds us even now that Love IS the law!
The struggle to end oppression in all of its forms and to realize the vision of full inclusion must continue. AND…at the end of the day, changing the law is simply a means to an end. Our true mission is to make love real in a church and world that needs it now more than ever.
The love that I am talking about is… A love that actively honors freedom and won’t allow the Book of Discipline to hold us back from calling justice to roll down like a river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. A love that actively honors humility and calls us to repent for how we decry some forms of oppression while remaining silent about or participating in others. A love that actively honors community and binds us together as the true church — the fellowship of all believers — where we hold one another accountable and no one is alienated, excluded, or left behind. A love that actively honors humanity and challenges us to realize that our focus on what happens in the church is not an excuse to ignore what is happening outside of the church. If we cannot be a church present in the world, then we are not the church. A love that actively honors self and invites each of us to “do our work.” It is time for all people who experience oppression and those who support them, to confront our own biases (implicit and explicit) and get the support we need to heal our traumas, unhealthy need for external validation and addictions to mental, physical, and emotional pain that prevent us from living our best God-ordained lives right now. Our greatest hope for liberation lies in our own unfettered joy, courageous vulnerability, purposeful self-expression, and sacred action. And most importantly a love of God who calls us to move past our superficial interpretations of love to a depth of generosity, unconditional acceptance, and passionate pursuit of wholeness that can only come from abiding in the eternal truth of love that is God.
I am committed to doing all that I can as a leader in this church to continue challenging the laws that oppress. In my heart, however, I know that I am called to more. I must make the aim of my living and leadership to make real, in every way possible, a liberating love that transforms the world and every human being in it.
The contraction, resistance, and breaking open that is taking place in the denomination right now is so much bigger than The United Methodist Church. What we are experiencing is, in a small way, the messy but inevitable awakening of the human family.
Let the birthing continue…
###[Erin Hawkins will speak April 7 at Claremont UMC as part of the "Engaging Compassion" series of the Agenda for a Prophetic Faith. Her annunced topic is “We are Becoming: Taking the Next Faithful Step on the Journey to Dismantling Racism.”]
Church and Society Committed to Inclusion and Justice
The last few days have been tumultuous in the life of The United Methodist Church. General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe responds.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
The last few days have been tumultuous in the life of The United Methodist Church and I want to begin with a word to my LGBTQIA friends, colleagues, and neighbors. You are beloved of God. Your lives and your relationships are sacred and holy and I grieve the harm done to you through words and actions in the name of Christ.
This was my 11th General Conference. I seldom tire of United Methodists gathering to witness to our faith in God to the world.
I love to celebrate the communities living out the Gospel around the world. I love to worship, praying in our many languages and cultures. It is so good to laugh and cajole one another to come along as we feel a common gladness about proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ, seeking justice and pursuing peace.
The 2019 General Conference session brought some joy and laughter and the gathering of friends. There were moments that would have bored Jesus to tears.
There were also moments that broke the heart of God.
The 2019 General Conference chose to further deepen the divide in The United Methodist Church. The plan adopted by a slim majority is punitive, contrary to our Wesleyan heritage, and in clear violation of the mandate given to us in 1 Corinthians 12.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Corinthians 12:21a) One part of our church cannot say to another, “I don’t need you.” And yet, that’s exactly what happened.
The 2019 General Conference brought unbearable pain to the body of Christ. The delegates’ resistance to hear and honor the presence and voices of LGBTQIA people has created a wound. The wound may one day be healed by the grace of God, but the scar left behind will be visible forever.
Our prayer must be of repentance. We must seek forgiveness. We must call on Christ to heal all of the brokenness we have imposed on the body.
I will pray for forgiveness in my part of having participated in a church that has excluded, pushed out and damaged many faith-filled LGBTQIA people. For all the families and young people wounded by these exclusions, we must always pray.
We must also put our faith into action and continue to work for LGBTQIA equality.
We will seek justice for LGBTQIA migrants. We will seek to end conversion therapy, the dangerous and discredited idea that you can change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. We will work to ensure that no one is fired from their job or prevented from access to housing because they are LGBTQIA. We will work to end hate crimes against LGBTQIA people, especially LGBTQIA people of color. We will seek a climate in which LGBTQIA children are protected and enabled to live full and flourishing lives.
Whatever comes next for The United Methodist Church, I am steadfast in my belief that the General Conference cannot release us from our responsibility to love and care for a world groaning for justice.
I am in prayer for you, for our church and for the world.
Statement on United Methodist Church 2019 Special Session of the General Conference
March 1, 2019
This week, at a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO, delegates passed the Traditional Plan, which tightens the rules restricting inclusion of the LGBTQI community.
We grieve with the LGBTQI community, feel the pain of a deeply divided global church, and acknowledge the hurt that this decision brings to so many of us, our partners, and our allies.
National Justice for Our Neighbors is a witness to the life-threatening persecution that many LGBTQI immigrants face based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which propels many to flee their home countries and seek refuge in the United States.
We at National Justice for Our Neighbors remain steadfastly committed to providing immigration legal services to all immigrants and refugees, without regard to race, religion, ethnicity, ideology, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
While this is a time of difficulty and uncertainty throughout The United Methodist denomination, we are reminded of Galatians 6:9.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
National Justice for Our Neighbors is committed to continuing the good work of helping our immigrant brothers and sisters without exclusion.