Mediation, Protocol, Grace, and Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church

So, it’s not often that the United Methodist Church makes national and local news. However, you or your friends may have read or seen something over the weekend that raised some questions for you. I want to make sure that you are informed and can respond well to people who bring up the topic.

On Friday, the Council of Bishops shared a press release – United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation – which included a document that sought to resolve some of our denomination’s differences and would result in a split of the global United Methodist Church

I encourage you to take a look at the original document – Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation (PDF) as well as the Frequently Asked Questions. I find this document noteworthy because it was unanimously agreed upon by persons from across the theological spectrum. While some news reports may lead you to believe that this is already approved, it is not. The United Methodist Church makes decisions as a global denomination every four years at a meeting called General Conference. This document will lead to one of many proposals that will come before the General Conference, which meets this May in Minnesota.

For me, it is clear to me that we must welcome all people into the entire life of the church. I want to serve in a church that does not have any restrictions or limitations for LGBTQ persons because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I also want to live in a church in which there is space for people who disagree. While I am not excited about an amicable separation, I believe that what is proposed by the protocol may be the best option for our denomination at this time. I trust that God’s Holy Spirit continues to help individuals and organizations make progress toward the perfect love of God and neighbor.

I have had conversations with people connected with Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church, who are both more progressive and more traditional regarding these questions. There are people with theological differences present each Sunday in worship. Being able to worship and seek God together is part of what I love about this church. We are trying to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ who are committed to the scriptures and devoted to our tradition as Methodists. We desire to be a diverse community of faith, where God’s love is in action.

One of our all-church goals this year is to implement a series of educational and engagement activities to inform the congregation regarding LGBTQ issues and proposals coming before the UMC at the 2020 General Conference so that we can clarify the congregation’s position and values regarding inclusion. With that in mind, I want to make three invitations to you.

First, starting Sunday morning, February 16, we are offering a study called Faithful and Inclusive – the Bible, Sexuality, and The United Methodist Church. This course provides a perspective on understanding how United Methodists can be both obedient to God’s Word and fully welcoming to LGBTQ persons in the church. This six-session resource has been designed for participants to develop their perspectives on the Bible’s passages related to homosexuality. We will be going through this study as a large group with small group discussions. If your Sunday School class would like to pause during these weeks to be part of the study, I invite you to do so. If you are not part of a Sunday school class and would like to be part of the study, I invite you to do so.

Second, I encourage you to read the mediation protocol [link]. This document is the actual product of the mediation process. You can download a copy here or pick up a printed copy at the church.

Finally, I encourage you to be generous and kind with each other – both those with whom you agree and those with whom you disagree.

Would you like to be part of the conversation at Susanna Wesley United Methodist Church to clarify our congregation’s position and values regarding inclusion? Do you have more questions or concerns? I would be glad to share a conversation with you. You can call the church or email me directly at andrew@swumc.org to share your interest in helping our congregation make progress.

New Appointment: How the News Was Shared

The news of my new appointment was shared in the following way:

  • Tuesday, March 13 – Supervisor and Lead Staff
  • Wednesday, March 14 – Resurrection West Staff
  • Sunday, March 18 – Worship at Resurrection West
  • Monday, March 19 – Resurrection All Staff Email
  • Monday, March 19 – Social Media – Facebook, Twitter and Blog
  • Wednesday, March 21 – Resurrection West Weekly eNote
  • Friday, March 23 – Senior Pastor’s Weekly eNote to entire congregation across campuses.

New Appointment: El Dorado First United Methodist Church

I have been appointed to serve as the lead pastor at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado, KS beginning July 1. The news was announced at El Dorado and Resurrection West on Sunday. El Dorado is a city with a population of about 13,000. It is located just off I-35 about 30 minutes east of Wichita. It is the county seat and most populous city in Butler County. First United Methodist Church was organized in 1869 and is thought to have been the first church in Butler County. The current church building was built in the 1920’s. They have a traditional and contemporary worship service on Sunday morning with a combined average worship attendance of 150 to 175.

I am excited about being the lead pastor at a congregation and using what I have learned at Resurrection to be a part of renewing the church. At the same time, I will miss all the great people on staff and in the congregation at Resurrection. I am looking forward to getting to know the people of the congregation and community in El Dorado and together take the next faithful step.

I plan to write more about the transition in the days ahead, so check back for more updates. If you have specific questions or would like to share a conversation, please feel free to email me at andrew.conard@rezwest.org.

Lutherans and the UMC – Gay Clergy and Full Communion

I just read the following article: Lutherans to Allow Sexually Active Gays as Clergy.

In addition, the ELCA Adopts Full Communion Agreement with the United Methodist Church.

I am not sure how these are going to co-exist. According to the above article, “Full communion makes possible a variety of joint ministries, sharing of resources and interchangeability of clergy.”

How will clergy be interchangeable among the denominations if there is disagreement about whether a self-avowed, practicing homosexual can serve as a clergy person?

UMNS = FAIL on the Constitutional Amendments

United Methodist News Service = FAIL

This morning I was reading news on the USA Today app on my iPhone when I came across this headline, Methodists defeat gay-related membership policy, with the lead sentence:

United Methodists have defeated amendments that would have made church membership open to all Christians regardless of sexual orientation and furthered the creation of a new, U.S.-only governing body, according to the denomination’s news service.

I was surprised to hear the news on the constitutional amendments first through USA Today and not from any denominational source. I was also surprised that the decision had been made so soon, I was under the impression that it would be several more months until the final tally was known as votes were still taking place around the world.

I found the article from the United Methodist News Service under the headline: U.S. conferences disapprove structure proposal. According to the statistics in this article:

  • 29% of annual conferences in the United States have not reported results of voting.
  • 67% of annual conferences in the denomination have not reported results of voting.

According to the article, “For a proposed amendment to be ratified, two-thirds of the aggregate number of voting annual conference members must approve.” The results from the US don’t matter. What matters is the entirety of votes from across the globe. Two-thirds of annual conferences in the denomination haven’t even reported their votes yet.

You have to be joking. The UMNS really published a story with data this incomplete? Unfortunately, yes.

The United Methodist News Service wrote a story too soon from one side of the story with incomplete data.

United Methodist News Service = FAIL