Reaction to General Conference
(This message from the Rev. Casey Collins was originally delivered to the Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church congregation on Sunday, March 3)
Many of you have expressed great concern regarding the ruling at the United Methodist General Conference last weekend, the ruling body of the global Methodist Church, the group that can change the rules and regulations for Methodist’s all over the world. They had gathered to discuss sexuality and what has become divisive words in the Book of Discipline, the Methodist Church laws which state that “Homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian Religion”.
There were 3 options going into that Conference, Keep the words, Remove the Words, or Give Conferences, Districts or churches the option of enforcing them or not. At the end of the General Conference with only about a 43 vote difference between keeping the harmful words and removing them, the winning vote was not only to retain them but to enforce them with strict penalties if disobeyed. No pastor will marry LGBTQ couples, no church will host their weddings, nor could a queer pastor be ordained or work in the church. All churches, Conferences and pastors would be required to sign a pledge confirming their participation. Bottomline, as a blog from Chris Kratzer put it they, “voted them out. Not just gay marriage and queer pastors. The entire LGBTQ community. Closed hearts, closed minds, closed doors. Your message is loud and clear.”
This will take a year or more to implement as it goes through the Methodist Church’s judicial system.
I have spent a good part of this week in conversations, e-mails and otherwise with many of you who gratefully are very concerned for me and very concerned about this. It is not over folks.
Three years ago at the annual New England United Methodist Church Conference (along with several other UMC conferences in the U.S) it was voted to be in non-compliance with the exclusive, harmful stand on sexuality already in the book of Discipline. The New England Conference would allow gay marriages and gay pastors and by that vote, affirm them.
As a gay pastor I have gratefully been supported fully in my years of ministry by all my District Superintendents, as well as 2 out of 3 bishops including our present Bishop Devadhar who is a wonderful advocate, and the majority of people in the churches I have served.
Moving into the future Bishop Devadhar will be working with the New England District Superintendents and the New England delegates to the General Conference for a plan to maintain and move forward as an inclusive church, as will most likely other Methodist Church Conferences who are so opposed to this turn of events. In the next couple of years God may very well create a new and stronger denominational off-shoot of the MC through this, that won’t have the conservative theology that divides so many. God is still working!
Again quoting Chris Kratzer, the queer community is “nothing less than all that is beautiful and holy—a sacred thread in the tapestry of God’s awe-inspiring creation. They are not a mistake that needs correction, a question that needs answering, a blemish that needs erasing, a problem that needs fixing, a sin that needs repentance, an illness that needs reparative therapy, or an issue that needs your voting . . . We are them, they are us. All together, human.”
There is a follow-up meeting to discuss the General Conference’s ruling scheduled in this District on Tuesday March 19 from 7-9 at the Thornton Heights Methodist Church in S. Portland or at the Brunswick Methodist Church in the Mid-Maine District on Sunday, March 24 from 2-4. At both there will be delegates who were in attendance at General Conference. I hope you can attend one or the other. If you have any questions or want to talk with me personally about this I would welcome the opportunity. Let us pray for the now Divided Methodist Church.
Creator God, we are your people. We look to the future with optimism and with faith in you as we pursue your call to provide justice and fullness of life for all people. May we enjoy a totally welcoming community, with you as our center. We pray not only for this church but for the global Methodist Church. Help us find your direction and help us all learn to love one another as you have loved us as we continue to welcome all people in love and joy into this church, into Your church. We pray in your holy name. Amen