by Pastor Laura Ledford
As you may have read or heard about, a special called session of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference gathered this week in St. Louis. The General Conference is the “deciding body” of our denomination, made up of diverse lay and clergy people from throughout the world.
The purpose of the gathering was to try and find a way to move forward together in unity, despite not being of one mind when it comes to the inclusion of LBGTQIA people. I was incredibly grateful to serve on the North Carolina delegation and proudly voted for the One Church Plan. While not perfect, this plan offered a way for our denomination to continue in mission and ministry – allowing spaces for clergy persons and churches who sought greater inclusion, while not forcing greater inclusion on any clergy person or church. The One Church Plan was not approved by the General Conference. By a slight margin, the “Traditional Plan” was approved. If you have not read the plan itself, it does not say anything new theologically about same gender marriage or ordination of LGBTQIA persons: the Church’s official stance against each of these remains basically unchanged. Instead, it is primarily a kind of enforcement policy on pastors, Bishops and Annual Conferences who have engaged in acts of disobedience or protest against the Church’s official teachings on these matters for reasons of conscience. Much of the original plan was determined unconstitutional, so we wait to see what will come as the Judicial Council reviews it.
Now, enough of that Methodist jargon.
I want you to hear this from me: I believe that all of God’s children are beloved, created in God’s image just as God intended. I believe that there are people of great faith and discernment who read scripture and disagree when it comes to these discussions. I believe that we can live together, worship together, and extend grace and mercy even when we do not think alike. In fact, I believe that the church is more vibrant, more interesting, more faithful when there is diversity in our body. When we are able to live together while holding disagreement, we become witnesses to a polarized world.
So what now?
I am still processing, as I imagine you are, and hope to have more cogent thoughts in the coming days. If you would like to speak by phone or meet with me, I would love to see you and hear you.
But most assuredly, we will gather for worship on Sunday, one of the most radical things we can do in a world that says people who disagree must leave one another. We will praise a living God who is constantly at work to make all things new. We will pray and sing with one another, asking for understanding and compassion. We will feast with Jesus, who delights when all of his family shows up to the Table.
Each of you are gift and grace in my life and I am grateful.