February 27, 2019
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
By now, you have certainly learned that the General Conference, the highest decision-making body of the United Methodist Church, passed on Tuesday legislation known as the Traditional Plan. This plan reinforces existing restrictions against same-gender weddings by United Methodist clergy and prohibitions against the ordination of LGBTQ persons. These prohibitions against marriage and ordination have existed in our denomination since 1972. However, as a result of the passing of the Traditional Plan, the penalties for clergy who violate these rules are now swifter and more punitive than before.
The United Methodist Church is the only denomination who is both global in scope and democratic in its governance, and the church is growing in more socially and theologically conservative areas of the world such as Africa and the Philippines. As such the Traditional Plan passed with support from not only United Methodists in the United States, but also with support from United Methodists from all over the world.
It is important to note that for some legislative reasons, the Traditional Plan is subject to review by the United Methodist Judicial Council when they meet later this year.
So, what does this mean for our life together? Reveille will continue to minister to LGBTQ persons, their families, and their children as we always have. Baptism, Holy Communion, membership, and leadership in our church remains open to these persons. There have never been prohibitions against such things in United Methodism. As is our mandate and practice, Reveille United Methodist Church will reach out to all our neighbors in love and service, and we will receive whoever God sends to us into this household of faith and lovingkindness.
For some of you reading this, yesterday’s decision is heartrending. For others, yesterday’s decision was the correct one, and things are as they should be. Some of you have even wondered why this was a matter for conversation at all. As I said in last month’s newsletter, I was, for several reasons, a supporter of the One Church Plan which would have offered our congregation more opportunities to be even more inclusive of LGBTQ persons. Yet regardless of where you stand on this issue, I want you to know that I love you, care for you, and will continue to give my life to serving alongside you in this important work as I promised to do when I took my vows of ordination twenty-three years ago.
In John 17, Jesus prays for his disciples to be one as he and the Father are one. This is my prayer for our church in these difficult and divisive days. Regardless of where one stands on the issues before the General Conference this week, I believe that we can be united in the truth that our world stands in need of God’s grace. As the sun rose this morning, the students at Swansboro Elementary still need us, just as they did yesterday. The rural poor in the mountains of Honduras still need us, just as they did yesterday. The hungry homeless here in Richmond still need us, just as they did yesterday. Our community still needs the racial reconciliation we demonstrate and work towards with our partner churches, just as it did yesterday.
I could go on, but let me say this: we are simply able to do more of God’s kingdom work in the world when we are together, and it is my earnest prayer that you will join me in working for God’s good in the world, even in the midst of things with which you cannot agree. Reveille United Methodist Church does not exist in this time and location by mere coincidence. God has placed us here for such a time as this, for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Come what may, to be the church Christ calls and the world needs, we need each other, side-by-side even in the midst of the areas in which we can respectfully disagree.
In other words, as I have said before, I love my people more than I love my positions, and on this day, I am asking you to do the same.
On Monday, March 4 at 10:00 a.m., our Bishop Sharma Lewis will give her “State of the Church” report. This event will be both live-streamed and archived at www.vaumc.org. I pray this will be a useful resource for all of us as we move into God’s future together.
I will be saying more on this topic in Sunday’s sermon, and I pray you will join me as we worship our risen Lord together. As always, regardless of where you stand on this issue, you clergy desire to be pastoral support for you, and we are always available for conversation.
Grace and peace,