From the Pastor’s Desk February 2020

January 23rd, 2020 by Kali Lewis

I have been asked about the changes that were adopted at the called General Conference held last year.  The Traditional Plan was passed and I will try to explain the changes for which the plan calls. But wait! This may all change again at the General Conference that will be held in                  Minneapolis in May. As of now this is the plan.

              On January 1st of this year we began to operate under the rules adopted at the Called General Conference of 2019. Those rules addressed the manner in which the church would deal with the issue of serving LGBTQ persons. I will try to summarize these changes here. First, persons who are LGBTQ are still welcome in our churches. That part of the Book of Discipline has not changed. If a person who is LGBTQ, or any person for that matter, wants to become a professing member of a United Methodist congregation, they must first meet with the pastor of the church. It is the pastor who determines where their heart is, and if they are ready to profess their faith. In the United Methodist Church, entry into membership is not based on a church vote.

Concerning the definition of homosexuality, the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” was expanded to include “a person living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union, or is a person who states he or she is a practicing homosexual.” Under the new rules, bishops are now prohibited from ordaining any person as an elder or deacon if the Board of Ordained Ministry has found them to be a homosexual, even if that board recommends that they be ordained. This gives bishops less latitude in dealing with this issue. Another provision concerns penalties for performing same-sex weddings or unions. Any clergy found guilty in a church trial of performing a same sex wedding or union will be suspended without pay for one year. Loss of credential will occur after that period if the clergy continues to perform same-sex weddings or unions. However, the bishops have opted to suspend this portion until after this coming conference.

The General Conference added a provision which allows churches to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church without having to purchase the property. Financial procedures were added which could be prohibitive for some churches. Disaffiliation must be related to the issue of homosexuality.

Churches have until 2023 to disaffiliate without being subject to property purchase. The vote on this particular issue was found to involve votes which would nullify this decision; however, the Judicial Council has delayed hearing this case until May of 2020. That means churches may assume that the rule on which they voted applies for now. All of these changes are now in effect. There are proposals to the 2020 General Conference to change these new rules. Because of this, many groups, churches and individuals within the United Methodist Church are planning what they will do after General Conference. Some are planning to leave now regardless of the outcome. Some have vowed to stay and fight. Some have said they are tired of fighting and plan to leave.

What should we do? Pray for our local church and the United Methodist Church. Changes may come that are more restrictive or less restrictive. We should still plan to be a welcoming church that loves all people. If one cannot abide with the new changes or subsequent changes, then one can make a decision about one’s church future. Until that  happens, look upon each person you meet with love and respect. No one has approached me about leaving as a church. Some have expressed their opinions relative to the issue of homosexuality and the church. My hope is that we at Manistique First United Methodist Church will continue to make disciples for Jesus for the transformation of the world. That is our goal regardless of the outcome of the conference to come.

Pastor Don