Dear Friends at Adrian First United Methodist Church,
Last week, The United Methodist Church prayerfully and intentionally entered into a process of holy conferencing with the hope of discovering an amicable way forward in regard our denominational stance on human sexuality, specifically pertaining to marriage and ordination.
On Tuesday, the special called session of General Conference came to an end, and with it, a decision. Bishop David Bard states it well in his letter to the members of the Michigan Annual Conference: The United Methodist Church will maintain its stance on human sexuality. In addition, enhanced enforcement provisions were approved as a way to encourage pastors, bishops, and churches to follow Disciplinary requirements. The plan encourages those who disagree with these positions to consider leaving to form another Methodist organization. It is not yet clear which of these provisions will be ruled constitutional or how they may be implemented.
Regardless of one’s personal beliefs on this matter, the fact is, many persons find this stance hurtful and feel that it shoves those in the LGBTQ community to the margins of our church life. It is clear from emails I’ve received and the many posts on social media that many people are experiencing very strong feelings on account of this decision. They are angry, hurt, and frustrated with our church.
How should we respond, especially if this decision is experienced as a hurtful one? As our bishop wisely counsels, it is helpful to acknowledge the reactions without becoming “reactive.” It a state of reactivity, it is easy to fall prey to name-calling and making overgeneralizations which are not necessarily based in truth. James reminds us that “out of the same mouth come praise and cursing,” but that as children of God, “this should not be” (James 3:10). Knowing how easy this is for us, Paul exhorts Christians, “In your anger do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). So, may it be that we glorify God in our responses, even when they’re punctuated with tears.
Another way one might consciously not be reactive is to step back and take a breath before making any long-term decisions about changing one’s connection to The United Methodist Church, and Adrian First UMC in particular. Yes, there is a real sense that we are in a state of crisis. Fortunately, it is not an “emergency room” crisis. Again, as Bishop Bard puts it, if you feel you need to take some action about your place within the UMC, I invite you to wait. Nothing need be done right now. These kinds of decisions require discernment, and hearing an answer to the question, “What would God have me do?” rarely happens quickly. Discernment takes time. And we have lots of time.
To be very clear, all persons, regardless of life situation, lifestyle, or anything, are of sacred worth. The doors of The United Methodist Church are open to all.
For those who would like to participate, I would invite you to our final “Faithful Living” small group gathering this Sunday, March 3, at 4:30. It will be a kind of “Where are We Now?” session.
Grace and peace to all of you,