As you have read in the headlines, the General Conference of the The United Methodist Church met in St. Louis this week, with the intent of resolving three decades of conflict over the subject of human sexuality. They did their work. And? We have an expression in Missouri, "You cain't put lipstick on a pig." So I won't try. A minority of US delegates and a majority of international delegates succeeded in passing legislation which tightens enforcement of already existing restrictions against LGBT clergy and marriages; the legislation keeps intact discriminatory language about LGBT persons.
The implications of the decision remain to be seen. The legislation must pass through the Judicial Council (the Supreme Court) of the UMC before it becomes church law. That meeting will occur this April. It is likely all or part of the legislation passed will not be in compliance with our existing constitution (The Book of Discipline). There remains wisdom and protection in the Discipline preventing our exertion of power over one another. However, with the outcome of this General Conference, we see those restrictions breaking. Depending on the outcome of the Judicial Council rulings, the traditionalist legislation would certainly be redrafted for the 2020 General Conference session.
This decision came as a shock to many of us. It has been traumatic for LGBT Methodists, and those who love us, and our vision for an inclusive church. I was asked this morning "Are you okay?" My answer is no, I'm not okay. The reality is in the near term nothing will change; there is a sense, however, that we have turned a corner. The last floor speech at the General Conference opened a door to a new future. Through the chair of the Western Jurisdiction leadership and delegates, Rev. Donna Prichard, your representatives to this General Conference spoke, "Rooted in Wesleyan tradition, grounded in Scripture and committed to mission and ministry, the Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God's children, across the theological and social spectrum. . .We also know there are others who feel the same way today, so we invite you to be in dialogue with us as we move forward together into a future with hope."
Either that dialogue advances the GC in 2020 to a new spirit or we are seeing seeds for a new church, grounded in the inclusive vision of the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC. You are and will be part of that. It is essential for you, Los Altos UMC to not be swayed, or discouraged, but ever more resolved as I am to be a witness to God's love for all people.
-- Peace, Pastor Mark
Rev. Mark Sturgess