Update on United Methodist Denomination

NOUMC Family,

Because the United Methodist denomination’s potential actions regarding its stance on human sexuality has been in the news again recently, we thought this would be a good opportunity to provide an update to you. When we briefed the congregation on this issue in November, we promised to keep you informed about further developments. 

In early January, an announcement was made about a proposed plan of separation for the church on this issue.  This announcement was covered extensively in the press.  This new proposal (link below) emerged from a group of leaders from United Methodist organizations, and several bishops, with varied perspectives on this matter – traditional, centrist, and progressive.  We are cautiously optimistic that this proposal might finally lead to resolution of a matter with which our denomination has struggled for more than four decades.

Most news articles on this matter have provided only limited perspective, and many included information that was incorrect or misleading. 

We believe it is important to note that, while news reports continue to characterize the issue as simply a division between those with traditional or progressive views on human sexuality, it does not accurately reflect the fundamental nature of the proposal or our struggle.  Rather, our debate is about what kind of relationship we want to have with our friends in and beyond the church, even when we disagree about certain matters. 

North Olmsted United Methodist, like most churches, has people with differing perspectives pertaining to this issue.  But we share a deep faith in God and Jesus Christ, with love and care for each other that transcend this one issue.  This proposed plan is about whether we can still worship and serve together in ministry as we all seek to grow in our faith, in our relationships, and continue to learn from one another.

Here are a few facts to provide additional context to what you may have heard:

  • The plan is a proposal to be discussed and debated at General Conference in Minneapolis in May 5-15 2020.  While the group who proposed the plan is comprised of well-respected leaders in the denomination, it does not have authority to implement any plan.  That can only be decided at General Conference.  The plan has to be translated into legislative language and reviewed by the United Methodist Judicial Council before being considered at General Conference.
  • Indeed, currently it is one of several plans that have been submitted for consideration.  We suspect that some or all of the previously-submitted plans may be rescinded or altered, now that this latest proposal has come to light, but that is yet to be seen.  Several of those other plans were summarized in our presentation in November, and the denomination this week published a helpful comparison of the plans currently under consideration (see links below).
  • The proposal includes several elements that may prove contentious (not the least of which is the exchange of funds).  It is possible that the plan could go through extensive amendment once debate begins at General Conference.

So, in short, this is not yet a “done deal.”  To be clear, we are indeed optimistic that this plan could lead to a breakthrough on a deeply divisive issue.  We suggest some caution, however, until it becomes closer to reality.  Our bishop, Tracy Malone, said as much in her letter to the East Ohio Conference earlier this week (see a copy of her letter below).

If you want to learn more about this issue, we have included links below to material that we found helpful.  And of course, if you want to speak with someone, we both welcome the chance to talk.

In Christ,

Rev. Hoyte Wilhelm, Pastor

Andrew Walsh, Our Faithful Journey Leader

===== Sources to explore more about this matter =====

The proposal, Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.

Frequently Asked Questions about the proposal from the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Slides from the NOUMC November presentation.

Comparison of Proposals to General Conference 2020 from United Methodist News.

A 35-minute discussion with Adam Hamilton, Pastor of the largest UM church in America and a religion reporter from the New York Times, from the NPR program 1A. “The Split Within The Methodist Church Over LGBTQ Inclusion.” 

===== Bishop Malone’s Letter to the East Ohio Conference =====

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Earlier today, a press release was issued on behalf of a United Methodist mediation team, comprised of clergy and laity, proposing a way to address the impasse within the denomination regarding matters of human sexuality.

I strongly encourage all clergy and laity to visit the Conference website and read the release – and the links contained within it – to gain a full understanding of what is being proposed. I ask that you not solely rely on news of the release shared through broadcast and social media.

The faithful group submitting today’s proposal joins other faithful groups across our beloved United Methodist Church who have already submitted petitions to be considered by delegates to the General Conference, which meets May 5-15 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

General Conference is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. The General Conference delegates who were elected by their respective annual conferences are given the responsibility to review and make decisions on all matters and petitions before the Conference. Bishops preside over the sessions of General Conference but do not vote.

A lot of work has been done, and is still being done, by many faithful United Methodists to prepare for General Conference 2020.

I ask that you continue to pray for The United Methodist Church and pray for the delegates as they do their best work on behalf of the denomination and for the sake of the mission of The United Methodist Church and our witness in the world.

While we do not know the outcome of General Conference 2020, we do know that we serve a faithful God who leads us and guides us and through whom all things are possible. Therefore, be it resolved that we remain committed to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; and we remain faithful to live into our East Ohio Conference vision by:

  • being disciples, making disciples, and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ;
  • being God’s agents of transformation in our communities and throughout the world, and
  • being bold and courageous leaders in reaching new people, younger people, and a more diverse people.

What is the Future of the United Methodist Church?

On Sunday, November 17 we provided to NOUMC an informational update on the United Methodist Church’s ongoing conflict over the official position of the denomination regarding God’s welcome of, and how the church will be in ministry with, LGBTQ persons.  For those who were not able to attend here is a short set of slides that were used to facilitate the conversation.

During the conversation, two videos from the Church of the Resurrection 2019 Leadership Institute were shown.  If you are interested in viewing them, they can be found at www.sharechurch.org.  This will require you to set up a free account, but please note that here are many resources from the Institute that are worthy of your attention.  The two videos we shared during the information session were those from the Nollen and Lampe families.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the plans scheduled for legislative action at the 2020 General Conference, the Open Spirit Task Force (an Exploratory Body of the New England Conference) has compiled an excellent summary, which you can find here.

Also, during the session we referenced several organizations that are advocating for various positions ahead of the 2020 General Conference.  If you are interested in learning more about any of them, you can do so at the following sites:

Thanks to all who attended the session and who helped make it a success.  Please reach out to Andy Walsh or Pastor Hoyte if you would like to discuss this topic further.

What Are You Thankful For in Life?

I recently celebrated 61 years of life on October 19. Time flies by from decade to decade! I am coaching myself with a positive mindset: “The 60’s are the new 40’s.” Well, maybe, I should be realistic and say: “the new 50’s!” However, I am thankful for having another year of life with the hopes of many more birthdays.

None of us know for sure how many years we will have on this earth but we are assured of the promise of eternal life as made known in great part with the scripture from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Those are hopeful and promising words that each of us can be thankful for and rely on in our walk as children of God.

What are you thankful for in life? That was the question my mother often asked of everyone seated around the table on Thanksgiving Day when she and my father hosted the family meal in their home. Three themes of thanksgiving often emerged in the time of sharing from my parents, siblings, in-laws, and the grandchildren: faith, family, and friends. We reminded one another not to take such things for granted as so many people yearn for and desire the same things.

In particular, as I write this article, I am also thankful for at least four other things: being blessed to have another day to live and share with others, having a birthday on the same day of the month that my son was born, serving in joy with people of North Olmsted UMC, and the fact that snowflakes in northeast Ohio are not flying around yet which means that I might have one or two more opportunities to get my boat out on the water!

One of the exercises I am practicing more in my daily life and encourage you to practice is to name three things that you are thankful for each day. What will you name each day that leads you to be thankful for what God is blessing you with in life?

In thankfulness for each one of you,

Pastor Hoyte

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

How Are You Communicating with Your Words and Actions?

One of the most significant things I learned from my mother is to live her favorite scripture:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). My mother and I know, as I imagine you do, too, that this scripture—The Golden Rule—is sometimes difficult to practice in everyday life.

Who among us has not fallen short in communication and actions consistent with The Golden Rule? Perhaps you have said or done something that was intentionally or unintentionally hurtful or harmful to a family member, friend, acquaintance, colleague, or stranger? Maybe you have hurt or harmed someone in a one-on-one conversation, in a group setting, over the phone, with an email, or through social media?

God forgives us when we ask for forgiveness in falling short in our treatment of others. However, God also expects each of us to live as best as possible the words of Jesus in The Golden Rule.

The United Methodist Church provides excellent guidelines for how we should treat people individually and collectively in all times and places. And so, I encourage you to join me in working to practice the guidelines as described in the article below consistent with The Golden Rule.

*Guidelines for Holy Conferencing: What God Expects of Us

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:12-16a, 17).

Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.

  • As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
  • Listen patiently before formulating responses.
  • Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
  • Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions. Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
  • Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking. This is especially important when you disagree with a position.
  • Avoid using inflammatory words, derogatory names, or an excited and angry voice.
  • Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups. Make your point with specific evidence and examples. · Make use of facilitators and mediators.
  • Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God – not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.
  • We believe Christians can discuss important issues without the acrimonious debate and parliamentary maneuvering that can divide a group into contending factions. We see too many examples of that in secular society. We believe the Holy Spirit leads in all things, especially as we make decisions. We want to avoid making decisions in a fashion that leaves some feeling like winners and others like losers.
  • We can change the world through honest conversation on matters about which we are passionate.”

*(This work is based on the guidelines for “Holy Conferencing” that emerged from the United Methodist “Dialogue on Theological Diversity” in February 1998 and continues to be practiced by many United Methodists today.)

How Are You Communicating with Your Words and Actions?

Pastor Hoyte

What Are Your Favorite Scriptures?

One of the most powerful ways of getting to know one another is by sharing our favorite Scriptures. I’ve listed “Ten of My Favorite Scriptures” and the reasons I selected them. I invite you to share some of your favorites, too! This kind of sharing can deepen and enrich our lives of faith and relationship-building in the life of the church.

Exodus 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.” Everyone needs a time of worship to become centered, refreshed, rested and renewed.

Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Our lives can become overwhelming with all kinds of “doing” activities and so God calls us to take more time to simply “be” and find moments of stillness.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” This passage, selected by my wife Terri and me for our wedding day, has kept me focused in our 32 years of marriage.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” This was one of my father’s favorite Scriptures. In a world that often condones actions of injustice, hatred, mean-spiritedness and self-serving pride, God encourages us to live into a higher calling in life.

Matthew 7:12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” This is one of my mother’s favorite Scriptures. The world would be a much better place if more people would truly model this kind of treatment with others.

Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Remember that all of us are carrying heavy loads in life and the only One that can truly give us relief is God in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 22:37-40 “He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’” This is easier said than done, but if we love God first and foremost we will become a beautiful, accepting and loving reflection of God in our interactions with ALL people.

Mark 1:17 “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’” I love to fish for fish, but there is nothing more fun and rewarding than catching people to develop a relationship with God and Jesus!

John 3:17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Many people are familiar with John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life;” but the scripture immediately following is often overlooked as a central message of Christians and churches: SAVING not condemning words and actions.

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is a very hopeful and promising message when people are feeling hopeless and as if God is absent, very distant or may have stopped loving them. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Would you like to share some of your favorite Scriptures?

In Christ,
Pastor Hoyte

Who is the Real Hoyt(e) Wilhelm?

When I was in first-grade, my Mom and Dad shared with me that people often asked if I was related to and named after the famous, hall-of-fame knuckleball pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm. My parents told inquirers that I was not named after the pitcher but rather my Uncle Hoyte (spelled with an “e”) who was the late husband of my Aunt Pearl, my mother’s older sister. I was really curious about all the questions about my name and often wondered at a very young age who the real Hoyt(e) was—the pitcher, my Uncle or me. Playfully, all I can claim about the pitcher is that I have two of his autographs—one on an action, black and white photo—both in response to a hand-written letter that I wrote him when I was in first-grade!

Names are very important and each of us has a story about how we were named. Were you named after a relative, family friend, or a famous person? My wife Terri and I chose the name, Timothy, for our son and the name, Megan, for our daughter simply because they were our favorite choices. One of my first priorities in beginning my ministry will be to learn the names of people connected with the faith community of North Olmsted UMC. I will enjoy listening to and learning about the life stories connected with all the names!

There is one name that is common to all of us: “children of God.” There are at least two scriptures that remind us of this reality. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” (I John 3:1). “For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Galatians 3:26). It is wonderful to know that we are all children of God with no exceptions and that we are received, loved and accepted for our real selves! That is something that we can celebrate everyday of our lives while encouraging people connected or yet to connect to the church that they can experience love as one of God’s children.

What makes us real in living the names and life that God has given each of us? It entails believing that each one of us is known and loved by God and called to live authentically with others in work and play. So, what does that mean for me as your new pastor? Knowing that I am loved and cared for by God I will seek to love and care for you by listening, encouraging, and supporting you in all matters of life and faith. I will lead and grow with you through the guidance of God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. I will share my life story and invite you to share yours, too, as we build relationships with one another in fellowship, study, mission and worship.

What are a few things about “Hoyte Wilhelm” that might begin to provide you with some insight about him? He loves to fish and was most recently glad to hang on one of his walls a 40” Musky to join his record-catching 18 ¼” Black Crappie. He enjoys dark chocolate, hiking in metro and state parks, engaging in activities of silence and worshipful reflection, and relaxing with others over meals and conversation. Hoyte gets excited about helping people to discover and share their true selves with others in and beyond the church.

This will be fun and exciting!

Peace in Christ,

Pastor Hoyte

Until We Meet Again

As I write this, my last Agape column as your pastor, I reflect on our past eight years together. Since starting my appointment to NOUMC on July 1, 2011, I have preached 420 sermons. I have performed twelve weddings, forty funerals, and eleven baptisms. It has been a sincere privilege and high honor to officiate at weddings and funerals; and there is no greater calling for a clergy person than to serve the sacraments of the church to the people of God.

Still, the past eight years have been about a lot more than just the official duties of my ordination. You are not only my parishioners, you are my friends. Together we have worked on mission trips, youth outings, and event planning. We have shared in four full-length Disciple Classes and six shorter Bible Studies. We have struggled through hard times and celebrated good times; and I will cherish those times as much as I cherish the memories of our worship together.

Retirement is a real mix of joy and sadness. I’m looking forward to what the future holds, but I will miss my friends. Still, I am very pleased that Rev. Hoyte Wilhelm will be taking my place. I have every confidence that he will lead this church forward to a really bright future; and for that I am very grateful.

As I head into retirement I celebrate that, in The United Methodist Church, clergy are ordained for life. (That’s not true in all denominations.) I will always be able to lead worship, perform weddings and funerals, and most of all, celebrate sacraments; and I have been assured by both my District Superintendent and my fellow clergy that I will have plenty of opportunities to do so.

I also look forward to doing some of the things I have not had time to do while serving a church full-time. As a trained piano technician, I’m going to spend more time working on pianos and playing pianos. I’m hoping to spend more time doing some genealogy research. I want to do some writing and possibly more teaching. I still have a dream of maybe someday building a harpsichord; and, of course, Ginny and I both really love to travel. I have no doubt that my retirement time will be filled with joyful activities.

Some of you know that I have been studying German at the German Cultural Center in Olmsted Township. (I’ve been studying German for three reasons: travel; family heritage and genealogical research; and the joy of actually understanding classical vocal music in its original language.) Those of you who know even just a little German know that the German words for Good-Bye are Auf Wiedersehen. But “technically” Auf Wiedersehen doesn’t mean Good-Bye. It literally means “on again seeing” or “until we see [each other] again.” As I am continuing to live in the area and continuing to maintain my United Methodist Connection, I am sure we will continue to see each other.

And so, as July 1 approaches, I simply say Danke schön (thank you) for eight wonderful years and Auf Wiedersehen (until we meet again). Know that I will always keep NOUMC and all my parishioners/friends in my prayers, as I wish you every success and happiness.

Grace and peace always,

Rev. Mark

Feeding the Community Body and Soul