Church Update

By Pastor Rob Fuquay | 04/5/2019
Yesterday I attended a representative gathering of bishops, agency heads, and pastors from around the country who met in Atlanta. Adam Hamilton, pastor of Church of the Resurrection UMC in KC, helped to convene the event whose purpose was to discuss future possibilities for centrists and progressives in light of February's Special General Conference in St. Louis. There is shared grief and disappointment over the outcome of that conference but also hope for becoming a better church. We affirmed our refusal to accept a church with the damaging, restrictive language and rules that were passed at this GC and now await rulings by our Judicial Council. We discussed changes needed to be more just and inclusive, particularly to the LGBTQ community. We also discussed possibilities and implications of a new expression of United Methodism. We had wide representation among races, gender and age as well as LGBTQ leaders in the church. Here are a few of the highlights:
  • We lifted up aspirations for what the church can and should be. We talked about what it means to live out the principle that all persons are of sacred worth, and how we feel a common hope of standing on the edge of something new.
  • We reclaimed our call to uphold our Wesleyan mission sharing grace for all. I took away several great quotes here: "To become again what we have yet to be." And "It is time to stop talking about erring on the side of grace. If we are on the side of grace we are never in error!"
  • We committed to hold onto core ideologies and values in our Book of Discipline such as our Theological Task, Our Social Principles and Our Call to Inclusiveness. We should never abandon these. This is a time we are called to live into them. The ones who voted for the Traditional Plan at General Conference are saying they are comfortable with a hypocritical church that says all people are of sacred worth and we should advocate for the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation while at the same time declaring that non-heterosexual people are incompatible with Christian teaching! Not only that, they send the message, as the WCA did today, that they welcome and receive LGBTQ people in their churches but seek passage of legislation that harshly condemns and punishes pastors who would perform weddings for their gay members, as well as removing gay clergy serving in appointments.
I am hopeful that these conversations will take us toward a church that no longer speaks with forked tongue. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord," will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my father in heaven." (Mt.7:21) I know in quoting that verse it comes off as self-righteous on my part. I don't mean for it to be. I don't want to give the impression that people who voted for the Traditional Plan are the ones who talk but don't walk. I share the verse to remind us all that we have to walk our talk. I share it to remind us that the will of our Father in heaven looks like the things Jesus did. I share it to say that not just preaching inclusive love but living it out is the key. I believe we are marching in a direction where or creeds and deeds line up. Keep praying for all across our church who are having these conversations. Pray for God's help and direction in renewing and reforming our United Methodist Church. Pray that we live out the words of the old hymn,

"Though what I dream and what I do in my weak days are always two,
Help me oppressed by things undone, 
O thou whose deeds and dreams were one."