A Statement in Response to the Actions of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference of the United Methodist Church
For 50 years the United Methodist Church [UMC] as a denomination has been wrestling with the issue of human sexuality and how the church is called to be in ministry with and to people of differing sexual orientation. Faithful committed Christians within the United Methodist Church have found themselves on different sides of the issue. For all those years the official stance of the denomination has been to welcome people of every sexual orientation and gender identification into our faith community, sharing in worship and all areas of ministry of the church with two notable exceptions -- that self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not eligible to be ordained as clergy in the United Methodist Church and that United Methodist clergy may not officiate wedding ceremonies for same sex couples.
This important issue has threatened to divide our denomination and the pressure raised by this division from people on all sides of the issue came to a head in the 2016 session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church when voting delegates demanded that the General Conference [the official legislative body of our denomination which meets every 4 years] make a ruling “once and for all” on the issue. To do that, a Special session of the General Conference was called with the sole task of determining the official stance of the UMC on this issue. That Special session of General Conference was held in February 2019. Several plans that represented the positions of different groups within the church were put forward for consideration and vote. The plan that was adopted by the narrowest of margins was the Traditional Plan. The Traditional Plan calls for the UMC to continue with the 2 restrictions cited above but with broadened definitions and stricter accountability and penalties placed on UM clergy for violating rules regarding officiating at same sex marriages.
What does this mean for the UMC as a denomination? For the great majority of members of the UMC it will be seen as a continuation of “business as usual” in regard to how the UMC seeks to minister with and to people of varying sexual orientation and identification. The same struggles remain as the church tries to be open to all people; to embrace all people of every ethnicity, age, race, and gender. But with this General Conference action demarcating a dividing line, it will be seen by many as callously excluding them and their life needs from the grace the UMC is called to provide.
What does all this mean for Fishers United Methodist Church as we seek to continue to reach out and embrace and welcome all people with grace for the sake of Jesus Christ? While not every member of our congregation agrees on this issue, we believe firmly that God has called us to be the embodiment of Jesus Christ and his gospel in our generation to our community and the world. People still suffer in all kinds of ways and we are called as Fishers UMC to reach out and care for them, offering the love of Jesus Christ in meaningful ways:
- We will continue to feed those who are hungry through our Come To Me Food Pantry ministry;
- We will continue to work with others in need through our various hands on mission projects;
- We will continue to speak for those who are marginalized in our culture and have no voice to be heard;
- We will continue to stand against injustice in all its forms and name injustice when we face it, calling for the church of Jesus Christ to act on behalf of those victimized.
- We will continue to provide opportunities for people to learn in many ways as we seek to create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
- We will continue to minister with and to families and individuals of our community seeking to provide age appropriate opportunities that will embrace them, provide community and a safe place for them; that will teach them; and that will challenge them to act personally to make a difference in the world for the cause of Christ.
- We will continue to worship together and to seek to worship with others sharing the joy and grace of Jesus Christ in our midst with open minds, open hearts, open doors, and open arms.
- And we will continue to welcome persons of all sexual orientations and gender identifications into the life of Fishers UMC.
As your clergy team, Pastor Ben Greenbaum and I commit to loving, serving, and leading us as a congregation as we seek to be those who offer and extend the grace of Jesus Christ for all. We will join with the members of our congregation to seek not to be “gatekeepers” restricting access to those who do not “look” or act like “us,” but to be “doormen” who stand ready to swing the door open wide and welcome all who would come in to seek and find the unconditional love of God through Jesus Christ.
Pastor Kevin McKinney Pastor Ben Greenbaum