Pastor’s Ponderings

United Methodists are divided on how to understand our faith in relationship to our sexuality and gender. For forty years, we have argued. And our spirits are wounded.

In 2016, at a world wide gathering of United Methodists (General Conference), tension was so high that a split in the church seemed like a real option. The delegates asked the Bishops for help. In response, the Council of Bishops convened a group, Commission on a Way Forward. The 32 members of this group (a diverse mix of Methodists from around the world) have been meeting every six weeks for over a year. Their task was to discern the will of God, and report to the Council of Bishops. Whenever they gather, they pray: “may we be faithful to God.”

Rev. Brian Atkins, pastor at Open Door UMC in Richmond, serves on the Commission, and spoke to us at our recent clergy gathering in January. He described how diverse the Commission was and then said: “We have really come to love on another. We meet with the hope of mutual transformation, powered
by the Holy Spirit.”

Brian’s experience gives me hope that we can have these difficult conversations and find a way forward. Then he said something that challenges me: “we are living in times when people disagree with us, we think they are not only wrong, but bad.” That is a hallmark of our culture, isn’t it? Is it, however, how we want to live? Is this the legacy we want to offer our children and grandchildren? We can choose to treat each other with respect and love, even if we disagree.

The Commission has published sketches of three possible ways to go forward. These are all truly “sketches” allowing us to continue the conversation as specifics are added. If you search “Commission on a Way Forward” on-line, you can read more about each sketch.

The Commission will make its final report to the Council of Bishops at the end of February 2018. Our Council of Bishops will release a final report in July of 2018, so that elected delegates can prepare for a special General Conference that will meet in February of 2019.

Our resident bishop, Bishop Carcaño, has asked for our prayers in February as the Council of Bishops prepares to meet and consider the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward. As we navigate the next year, I think we all want to know we are following God’s will for our church. If we are truly going to find a way forward, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. Prayers and listening to each other will help us find that way.

Both Pastor Chelsea and I would value hearing your insights and hopes for our United Methodist Church. We will forward any and all input to Bishop Carcaño’s administrative assistant, per the Bishop’s request. Bishop Carcaño wants to carry our input to the Council of Bishop’s gathering in late February.

We worship a God that leads us through the darkest valleys, a God of resurrection. May we claim that faith and that truth now and always.

Pastor Kim

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