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.
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.
A 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.