Word from the Pastor-March 2019

Mar 8, 2019 by

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

The following is complicated to explain, and I will express my personal feelings at the end. First, this report: Many of you may have heard by now of the final vote recently of the Special General Conference in St. Louis. Delegates from countries around the world and from many different cultures voted not to pass the One Church Plan, recommended at the General Conference’s own request by the Council of Bishops – a plan which would have left room for people of different discernments on the issue of homosexuality and ordination and marriage to remain in the United Methodist Church. Instead, they voted by a rather narrow margin (438 to 384) to pass what is called the Traditional Plan, which retains the current language in the Book of Discipline of the UMC around human sexuality. This language was added just since 1972. The Traditional Plan may also strengthen the strictness of repercussions on those who do not abide by it, perhaps even requiring bishops and whole conferences to certify that they will either abide by it or leave the denomination. (Local churches would neither have to certify this, nor agree with their conference’s certification, per the original plan, at least.)

Before the Traditional Plan was passed, parts of it had been declared unconstitutional (under the Constitution of the UMC, part of our Book of Discipline) by the Judicial Council (the Supreme Court of the UMC). My understanding is that the Judicial Council will make a final ruling of the constitutionality of the plan, and of amendments made to it at the Special General Conference, in April. However, I hear that there will be no disciplinary enforcements until 2021. Meanwhile, the UMC will hold its next regular General Conference in 2020.

Personally, what hurts my heart so deeply is the great hurt and wounding that this more rigid decision does to so many good people of authentic faith and calling, as it leaves almost no space for those of different but equally sincere discernments of God’s Word, something for which more traditional Methodist conferencing has allowed. And as we face these times in which a rift threatens, I cannot help but think of you, Benn’s Church. For 239 years, you have been a faithful Methodist presence in this community, witnessing to God’s love through Christ. So, as your pastor, I want to remind you all of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke, when he says, “’Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’” (12:32). Trust in that; trust in him. Ultimately, the Church belongs to God alone. We are privileged to be called God’s children and we are each one dearly loved; both the Bible and the Discipline say that. Hold on, and keep the faith. Let’s wait and watch for how things are when the dust settles in the next two years. And may our actions always be couched in Christ’s merciful justice and love.

Your Sister in Christ,

Betsy Caudill

 

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