Tradition and One Church

webRNS-UMC-GenCon4-022519From February 23-26, The General Conference of The United Methodist Church — a legislative body of 864 people from around the world — voted during a special session of General Conference in St Louis MO to uphold the current Book of Discipline, our denomination’s book of law and polity, regarding the status of same-gender weddings and ordination of LGBTQ persons. Some people celebrated this decision while others experienced immense pain.

The goal of the special session was to determine whether the global United Methodist Church would allow the inclusion of people in the LBGTQAI community to be married by a Methodist clergy and for that marriage to be recognized as sacred. It would also allow clergy to openly live out their sexual identity. The proposed “One Church Plan” would have allowed each conference and each church to determine the status of such people and the integrity of clergy. It would have also allowed churches to not allow such participation or acceptance. Each church would be given the choice.

The alternative is to maintain the current “Traditional Plan” which does not allow recognized non-heterosexual marriage or clergy who are non-heterosexual to be a part of our Methodist community.

The “One Church Plan” was voted down and the “Traditional Plan was upheld by a vote of 449 to 374, a difference of 54 votes. (The picture shows only the partial tally, not the completed vote)

Many regard this decision as harmful to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers, their children, parents, friends and family. There are many who feel this decision demonstrates our church’s inability to sustain patience and forbearance with each other. Both clergy and laity have wept that the church which guides their lives and moral foundation has chosen to turn away the very people Jesus has reached out to. People with a deep love of the Methodist church and its compassionate beliefs have been shaken to the core and are now doubtful of the church’s true commitment to discipleship.

Others are thankful that the United Methodist Church has reaffirmed the doctrine of marriage between a man and a woman. That we have not strayed from scriptural tenets and traditional beliefs which has sustained our church and faith. Many celebrate that these principles have not been compromised by the cultural winds of modern society.

There is now doubt that we cannot seek a way forward. A way which allows traditionalists and progressives to truthfully, genuinely and faithfully fulfill their response to God’s call. And to do so while focusing on the common missions of discipleship, transformation, acceptance and love

It’s important to note that The United Methodist Church is a global denomination. So, while this issue may be debated in the United States, the delegates who vote on these matters are clergy and laity, from the U.S., Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and Russia. In some of those places, homosexuality is illegal, punishable by fines, imprisonment, or execution. Those factors, along with interpretations of scriptures, are integral in casting votes.

In the United States, some people take a literal interpretation of scripture just as some people see the Bible as the inspired word of God with many nuances that must be interpreted based on changes in society and human dynamics. United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference are no different.

Some will welcome this decision and some will not. This does not end the debate and the schism which has divided our denomination will likely grow wider. It is asked of all Methodist congregants to pray without judgment or condemnation. Rather pray for those who need compassion and acceptance and pray for the work of Christ’s Church in our community. Let us remain focused on the needs of people and our pledge to live and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through heartfelt and genuine discipleship.

Many congregations of The United Methodist Church have been and will continue to be fully welcoming to LGBTQ persons. In fact, all people are welcome to worship, take part in the sacraments of baptism and communion, and serve in non-ordained leadership roles at all levels of the local church. None of those aspects of church life changed with the special session of General Conference.

We pray that both the Blue Hill and Bladen United Methodist Churches are committed to continuing the work to make a lasting impact in our community. We will continue to talk about God’s love for all people and of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for all people. Regardless of our individual or collective belief toward the General Conference decision, we will continue to worship as a community of faith and commit to the discipleship of love, grace and hope for the transformation of the world.

This matter remains to be settled because of questions related to constitutionality of the Traditional Plan and resolve from people seeking full inclusion. In the name of Jesus Christ, we are called to relationship within our diversity. It is neither that we are indifferent toward truth nor tolerant of error. We approach our work with humility, aware that none of us can search the mysteries of God except by the Spirit of God. We proceed in mission together in continued prayer for discernment, in the building of new relationships and trusting that the Spirit will grant us wisdom to continue our journey with the whole people of God.

Copies of this report along with a letter and video from Bishop Ruben Saenz of the Great Plains Conference can be found on Facebook at:

and on the Pastor’s Blog at:


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