Two weeks ago, my sermon pertained to the struggles currently dividing the United  Methodist Church. It was a difficult sermon to put together and I personally don’t think I gave you a very good description of the situation, so I am going to give you a brief account in this article. 

 Delegates to the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church decided to not vote on issues pertaining to human sexuality, but to allow the church’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss whether to accept same-sex  marriage or ordain LGBT clergy.  The     bishops said they wanted the commission to “develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”   

The Commission presented its report to the Council of Bishops at their meeting in Chicago, April 29-May 4. Three models were included in the report. 

 The “One Church Model” is favored by a majority of the Council of Bishops. This plan requires the UMC to  eliminate its definition of marriage as well as its moral standards for ordination.  Each  Annual conference would be free to adopt its own ordination standards.  Each pastor and each local church would choose their own definition of marriage.  No church or pastor would be required to go against their own conscience. Some have called this the “local option” and it embraces a contradictory diversity of practices between churches,  pastors and Annual Conferences.

  Secondly, the “Traditional Model” has significant support among the Bishops. This plan retains the current definition of marriage and standards of ordination. Those who disobey would face yet to be specified mandatory consequences, perhaps the suspension of pay.  Given the existing         disobedience of some clergy and bishops, this sets up an intensified conflict. 

Thirdly, the “Multi-branch model” involves the creation of three separate branches: one that embraces the traditional definition of marriage and moral standards for ordination; a second that accepts all positions;  and a third branch that enforces a new definition of marriage as well as a new morality. These three branches would  operate under an overall umbrella of United Methodism with one Council of Bishops. This option is the most complex and would require multiple changes to the church’s constitution which requires a 2/3 vote of the General Conference followed by a 2/3 vote by all the Annual Conferences. 

The Bishops have stated they will propose an “exit ramp” so that those  churches and pastors who cannot abide the changes might be able to leave the denomination and retain their property and pensions.  Details are not known. 

These three models will be voted on at a special General Conference to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, in February, 2019. This 2019 General Conference will be a pivotal moment for the future of the UMC. Please be in constant prayer for the future of our denomination. 

I believe you need to know where your pastor stands on this debate.  I personally support the “Traditional Model.” I support our current Book of  Discipline because I believe it follows  scripture. That said, I want to stress that not allowing gay marriage in the church or ordaining those in the LGBTQ community does not mean that I don’t love my neighbor as myself and I think that most others who want the “Traditional Model” would agree. All of God’s children are welcome in the church and should be loved and cared for equally. 

 Primarily, my prayers are for maintaining unity in the “United” Methodist Church. We are the only Protestant denomination with a           worldwide connection. Talk about loving our neighbors as ourselves!  Remember, also, John Wesley believed in the primacy of Scripture. I am a   creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book--John Wesley 

I won’t carry on about this too much, but I want you to understand what is happening and how it could affect the future of the United Methodist Church. I will provide more detail in future  newsletters and I am willing to discuss it at any time.


 Pastor Nancy 

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