God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:19 CEB)
The United Methodist Church is in an historic period of upheaval and change. At the February General Conference, our global leadership voted by a slim majority for the Traditional plan, which says that while “all persons are of sacred worth and are welcome in the church” (Discipline par. 4 & 214), on the other hand “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (Discipline par. 161G). Penalties for pastors who conduct same-sex weddings and bans on ordination of LGTBQ+ clergy were made harsher and stronger.
This decision was unexpected and upset many United Methodists in the U.S. and in our local congregation who believe God is leading the church in a more tolerant direction. In preparation for the 2020 General Conference, leaders around the world are discerning whether our denomination needs to split apart.
I get asked, “What does this mean for Onalaska UMC?” In the short term, not much. Our congregation always said that we welcome all people. After General Conference, our Council unanimously voted to emphasize our vision, that we “LOVE all people unconditionally.” Each Sunday we open the doors and hold passionate worship. During the week we host fantastic small groups for intentional discipleship. We continue to support risk-taking missions. We are loving our neighbors extravagantly. The coffee is hot and the cookies are sweet!
But we also are in a period of discernment as a congregation. We need to talk about full LGBTQ+ inclusion and decide where we are at as a church family. Are we really ready to welcome ALL people as equal participants in God’s church?
In March, OUMC leaders voted overwhelmingly to study the possibility of becoming a Reconciling church—a United Methodist Church that specifically welcomes and includes LGBTQ+ people. Reconciling begins with several months of education for all members of the church through sermons, God Moments, bible studies, etc. In January, we will vote at a church conference on a new Reconciling statement. Then we will know our own minds and be ready, whatever happens to the UMC.
The Reconciling process starts now. Take the preliminary survey by the office before June 16 to share your thoughts. Sign up for a small group this summer. Watch for the occasional sermon or testimony at church. Keep an open mind. Love other folks in church, even if you don’t always agree. Most of all, pray!
As Paul writes, the essential point of Jesus Christ is God reconciling the whole world, all of creation, sinners and saints. Jesus came not to condemn, but to save. Reconciliation: amazing grace, amazing love!