Following the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, a Commission on the Way Forward was created to address the gender issues facing our denomination. The 32-member Commission, appointed by the Council of Bishops, has the charge of finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences around gender issues. The Commission’s report will be made public no later than July 2018.
After receiving the Commission’s report, United Methodism’s top lawmaking assembly will meet in a special General Conference to act on the report. That special General Conference will be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis.
Before I go any further, it is my hope that LGBTQ persons would be welcome in all United Methodist Churches, including Orion UMC. Worshipping God in a corporate setting—and for that matter, Holy Communion—are means of grace and I would not want to hinder anyone from experiencing the grace of God. The communion table at Orion United Methodist Church is open to all persons.
Our denomination’s gender debate really centers on two rituals involving clergy. First, is it permissible for a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to be ordained in the United Methodist Church? Currently that is not allowed according to our Book of Discipline. However, there are many UM conferences which are ignoring that statute.
Secondly, can a United Methodist clergyperson conduct the wedding of a same-sex couple. Once again, that is not allowed according to our current Discipline. Once again, though, there are many UM pastors who are ignoring that statute.
On Human Relations Sunday (January 14), I discussed the possible directions our denomination may take following the February 2019 General Conference. Most of my comments were drawn from an excellent article in the September/October 2017 edition of Good News magazine. You can find the article, “Is There a Way Forward?” at www.goodnewsmag.org. Author Walter Fenton portrayed the groups involved in the debate, saying they generally fell into one of three groups.
Rev. Fenton described the first group as reconcilers whose primary objective is to maintain the unity of the United Methodist Church, even if concessions were made for some progressive conferences, churches, or clergy.
He described the second group as liberalizers whose ultimate goals is to dramatically liberalize the UMC’s sexual ethics and understanding of gender.
Fenton described the third group as conservatives who wish to maintain and enforce our traditions concerning gender and marriage.
I hope we can maintain the unity of the denomination. However, I do not believe we can resolve this issue without addressing our itinerant system of appointing pastors to churches. I urge you to be in prayer for the continued unity of the United Methodist Church.
Yours for the Mission,
P.S. To learn more about this issue, check out my January 14 discussion on my Facebook page.