By Pastor Mike
It was in the national news recently that leaders from different theological factions of our denomination have met together and are proposing a solution to the disunity and contention that exists within the United Methodist Church.
Let me back up. Friendship Church began as, and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It has over 30,000 local congregations like Friendship and about 8 million members in the United States with many more in Europe, Africa and Asia and the Pacific Rim.
The United Methodist Church has a representative form of governance and the representatives to our General Conference are the authoritative decision makers for the whole denomination. Since the United Methodist Church’s inception in 1967, it has had a theological position that declared that persons of same sex orientation are of sacred worth to God and worthy to receive all the ministries of the church, but that the practice of homosexuality is inconsistent with Christian teaching. Furthermore, United Methodist pastors were forbidden to participate in same sex marriage unions, and Bishops were prohibited from ordaining pastors who were self-declared and practicing homosexuals. (These are positions that I agreed with at my ordination in 1987 and have held to this day.)
These definitions of Christian marriage and qualifications for ordination are at the center of the conflict. While these issues have been fiercely debated at each General Conference since 1967, the General Conference has not amended the church’s historic positions.
Because 50 years of debate have not led to a resolution of these issues, it appears that our next General Conference gathering in May 2020 will be considering a process of friendly separation. The terms of what is being proposed are clear but the General Conference will not be bound to any particulars and the certain conclusion will not be known until this conference is ended.
If the General Conference creates a vehicle for churches to disaffiliate with the denomination, then local congregations (like Friendship Church) and affiliated pastors (like me) may have decisions to make.
It is my intention to help each Friendship Church members be fully informed on the issues at hand, consider all the practical and theological implications of our choices, and to the lead Friendship Church through this in unity and harmony.
We are designing a series of open congregational meetings in February, March, and April. These will be times of education, discussion and reflection. If we each invest in these important discussions I believe we will be able to move forward as a loving, hopeful, and faithful Church. I urge you to keep your interaction with other members on these topics to our face to face gatherings – rather than social media platforms. I am convinced that we will be more caring, considerate, and able to clearly communicate in this way.
I am always available to respond to your concerns.
Being His, Pastor Mike