FUMC Sachse Newsletter
Friends, the pastor’s column is lengthy this month. Grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage before you begin reading.
As your pastor, I want to invite all of us into a season of intentional prayer for our United Methodist Connection. Later this month in St. Louis, we will hold a specially-called General Conference, a global meeting of United Methodists. The purpose of this General Conference is to receive and to vote on the reports of the Commission on a Way Forward, which was formed at the General Conference in 2016 to examine and prepare suggestions for the United Methodist Church to be in ministry with and for those in the LGBTQ community. At issue is the language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that reads, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” which was added in several places in 1972. This language prevents same-sex weddings in our United Methodist Churches and also prohibits the ordination into ministry of gay persons. The General Conference will examine four plans. 1. The Traditionalist Plan maintains the current language in the Book of Discipline, but also strengthens penalties for clergy who violate the current rules regarding same-sex weddings. 2. The One-Church Plan allows for clergy and each local church to make up their own mind. 3. The Simple Plan removes all appearances of the “incompatible” phrase from the Book of Discipline, and thus removes all penalties for clergy regarding same-sex weddings. 4. The Connectional Plan replaces our current jurisdictions (which are geographical) with three overlapping jurisdictions, each one defined by whether it will be traditionalist, progressive, or One-church.
There is understandable concern throughout our global connection that this may lead to a split of the United Methodist Church. It is predicted by some that those factions that feel as though they are on the losing end will leave the United Methodist Church. I confess that these possibilities fill me with a tremendous sadness. After all, I am a cradle Methodist. For perspective, though, it may prove healthy to remember that there is conflict in the early church starting in the Book of Acts, and continuing throughout history. Even within Methodism, we have had violent disagreements over slavery, divorce, and the ordination of women. I remind all of us that we have had several ordained women here at FUMC Sachse, and our current Music Minister is the Reverend Debbie Chapman. People leave churches and start anew at other churches for a variety of reasons. I mention all of this to say that regardless of how the voting goes in St. Louis, people will leave Methodism.
As our friend Brady Waters rightly observed, this is all distracting us from the main things of our faith. Those include love of God and neighbor, and service to our neighbor in need. Those include the grace of God, the forgiveness of our sins and a place in the eternal kingdom, because of Jesus. Those include the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. They include the availability of baptism to ALL people, and our communion table, which is open to ALL people. I believe strongly that our United Methodist witness to all of these things is among the most convincing and powerful in the world. This is the reason that a potential split saddens me. No Christian Protestant denomination raises and donates more money to the poor, the hungry, and those ravaged by natural disaster than we do. (Our Catholic neighbors are ahead of us, but they had a huge head start.) Nobody travels the globe to undertake missions of mercy and justice like we do, whether those projects are across the globe, across the nation, across the state, or across the street. In my life, I have participated in countless mission efforts. In all those years, nobody who has received a plate of food from me, or whose roof I have replaced, or in front of whose home I have installed a wheelchair ramp has ever asked me about my sexuality. However, they have asked me about Jesus, and they have asked me about our church.
No matter how the voting goes in St. Louis, on the day after that, we are still a church of Jesus Christ. We still have a mission field to serve and to visit. We still have disciples to make for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We still have children to teach and youth to shape. We still have neighbors who are sick, mourning, or lonely. In the coming weeks, you will see a sign-up sheet in the Welcome Center inviting you to devote a fifteen-minute block of time to prayer for the General Conference in St. Louis during the days of the Conference, Feb 24-26. Whether you are at home or at work or at school, take time to pray for our United Methodist Connection, for God’s wisdom to prevail, for us to remain loving. Our sanctuary will be open on those days for anybody who would like to come in for prayer.
It is for these reasons that we will emphasize a theme of “Unity” in our worship services in February. As the founder of the Methodist movement, John Wesley, once said, “Though our minds may not be alike, cannot our hearts be alike.” There will always be points of disagreement among any group of people. For us, our list of disagreements pales in comparison with the list of things on which we agree, which is the above paragraph about “main things.”
In the name of the God who creates us, the Son who redeems us and claims us as his own, and the Spirit who sustains us, for the good of our neighbors in need, we must remain together.
For a summary presentation of all four plans, visit our church office.
For more details than you can imagine about all of this, visit this website: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward