At People’s Church, we have long affirmed our support of the full inclusion of all persons in the faith, life, and leadership of the church, including those who are a part of the LGBTQ community. While we are joined by many United Methodist Churches in this belief and practice, United Methodists have not agreed as a whole denomination on the place of LGBTQ people in the church. In fact, the official policy of the denomination has been to deny their full inclusion.
A special world-wide denominational meeting (called a General Conference) was held this week, and its purpose was meant to move us forward amid the impasse related to LGBTQ inclusion and resulting questions about the unity of the church.
We are saddened to report that The One Church Plan that was endorsed by the Council of Bishops was voted down. The One Church Plan was created with the hope of keeping the denomination united and would have allowed annual conferences, congregations, and clergy greater flexibility to make decisions based on individual and communal convictions regarding inclusion.
Eventually, the Traditional Plan passed. This plan affirms the United Methodist Church’s current ban on ordaining LGBTQ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-gender marriages. The Traditional Plan also doubles-down on enforcing punitive and exclusionary practices. However, many parts of the Traditional Plan have been ruled unconstitutional and must be reviewed by the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church. It also passed an exit plan for churches wishing to leave the denomination.
The Judicial Council will rule during its regularly scheduled meeting, April 23-25, in Evanston, IL. We will not know until after that what portions of the Traditional Plan are actually valid and constitutional and what portions of the plan will be enacted. The constitutionality of the exit plan will, most likely, be reviewed at that meeting as well. Therefore, it will be at least two months before we know what this means for our denomination.
What does this mean for People’s United Methodist Church? Pastor Kate and I met with a small portion of our Servant Leadership Board last night. This small team affirmed our church’s commitment to the full inclusion of all in the life, ministry, and leadership of the church. We want to express our sympathy and prayers for all of those hurt by the vote of General Conference. While it may not lessen the hurt and anger you feel, we hope that it is some comfort to know that your brothers and sisters in Christ here at People’s Church believe we are called to a different way.
At the same time, we recognize that we may not all be of one mind in our congregation. To which, we want to affirm that we believe that the church is stronger and represents the full body of Christ when all are included at the table, whether or not we all agree. We are judged by how we love one other, whether we agree or disagree with one another. We want to affirm the place of everyone who is striving to grow in faith and love with God and one another.
In terms of the life and ministry of People’s Church, we will continue to move forward to accomplish our mission: to help people know they are loved by God and to invite people to make our church their church home - a home where all are cared for, growing, and making a difference for the sake of everyone who needs to experience the love of God in their lives. We are moving forward with the resourcing of the MCCI process. We also give thanks for all of the faithful, loving people of this church. We are excited about the ways we are moving to make a difference in the lives of people in our church, community, and world.
The full Servant Leadership Board has a regularly scheduled meeting this Sunday and will discuss all of what has happened over the past several days. If you have any questions or concerns or want to talk individually with someone, please feel free to contact either one of us or come to our open Church Town Hall Meeting on March 12 at 6:30 p.m.
May the love of Christ surround you this day. May God’s love lead us forward. And may God help us to keep faith in the reality that, though the road may be long and hard, eventually the love of God shared with us through Jesus Christ will win.
In the grace and peace Christ,
Pastor Jason Mahnke
Pastor Kate Sweet