by Rev. Teresa G. Welborn, District Superintendent of the Capital District in Austin, Texas
I’m heading home to Austin from General Conference. I want to share a few words – especially to the laity and clergy of the Capital District. It has been a rough few days. Some of you may be pleased with the decisions made at General Conference, but this is a tender time as many others had great hope that decisions made at General Conference would lead to greater inclusivity for LGBTQI+ persons in The United Methodist Church. I had that hope. For those of you feeling sad or angry, in pain and in grief, I am so so sorry. While I am disappointed, I want to tell you why I have hope.
Yes the Traditional Plan was voted in, but many parts are unconstitutional. We will know more in the coming days as Judicial Council meets and shares their report. It seems as if nothing has changed and what we have is the status quo. And yet, there is change. The Commission on the Way Forward increased conversation in churches across the connection regarding matters of human sexuality and LGBTQI+ inclusion. Even more, as the debate regarding the Traditional Plan on the floor of General Conference unfolded, I saw an energy stirring up among moderates and progressives that I have never seen before. People who refuse to be silent and walk away, who are heart sick about alienating more people from the church, and who are committed to working for an inclusive church.
I know we do not all agree. But I do want to continue being District Superintendent to all of you. I think we’re a pretty good team! If your perspective is more traditional, I want to continue working with you and supporting the churches of which you are a part. But please remember that others who were hoping for steps towards greater inclusivity are hurting. I know you are already in prayer for healing and guidance because I have heard from some of you. Thank you.
For those of you who are involved in the struggle for full inclusion I know there is not always agreement about the right approach to take, but I want to continue working with you and supporting the churches of which you are a part. As I hold you in my prayers, I think of the words from Galatians: “Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have the opportunity”(Galatians 6:9-10).
The Capital District is full of vital churches that hold a variety of theological perspectives. And as a counter to rhetoric I hear that only conservative churches are growing, I share with others across the connection that in Austin there are many United Methodist Churches that are not only inclusive and progressive, but are vital in mission and outreach and growing in worship attendance. For those of you in the LGBTQI community who are a part of our area churches, as your heart aches I carry you in my heart. No matter what the general church says, you are a beloved child of God and our churches are more vibrant because of you. Dear ones, in the midst of my disappointment, you give me hope. It is my great hope that you will find comfort in being surrounded by the faith communities of which you are a part.
I am looking forward to unplugging a bit in the next couple of days and reconnecting with my family. There will be time and space for more conversation in the days and weeks ahead as we continue to be the church together. May we turn towards God and one another. You encourage me!