General Conference: Some First Thoughts

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The General Conference has ended, but it isn’t over.  While we know that the Traditional Plan passed, with its goals of strengthening the ban on same-sex marriage and tightening the rules against the ordination of LGBTQ+ persons, we still don’t know until April how the Judicial Council will rule on the legality of the plan.

Below, I am sharing with you several links to information on the conference and its actions.  The truth is I’m still sorting through the details of it all myself.  Also, this Sunday, March 3, Mathew Pinson, who headed up our annual conference delegation, will share with us a bit in worship.

Now, we find ourselves in a time of flux, grief, uncertainty, and waiting.  And the truth is we’re all tired of waiting.  We’re wary of uncertainty and tired of watching folks we love excluded from the church’s rites and rights.  Today I also hurt for our wonderful seminary students and candidates for ministry, some of whom don’t know if they will be welcomed by the church they feel so deeply called to serve, and none of whom really know what will remain of our denomination when they are ready to take their places in pastoral ministry.  Please pray for them as well.

Emotions are jumbled, mixed, and raw.  So, what do we do?
We stay informed.
We support the cause of inclusion and love with our voices and our work (and explore possibilities for that work together).
We see to it that good and faithful folks represent us next year at General Conference and support them in their challenging work.
We watch and listen to see how the Holy Spirit will work through attentive and faithful servants and churches across our conference and denomination and how we can best be a part of it all. And, fundamentally, essentially, joyously, we continue to be the church God has called us to be.

Though the nations rage and the denomination quakes, we who are Glenn Memorial will do what we are called to do.  We’ll gather in worship and offer praises to the God of all that is, finding refreshment for our spirits.  We’ll invite our neighbors to worship with us and to study with us and to grow with us in the Spirit and truth of Jesus Christ.  And we will love with the here-and-now-Incarnate-nitty-gritty love of Christ, with the love that never ends, with the love that makes all things new, with the love that saves and heals.  We will love one another; we’ll love those who feel unloved by our denomination; and, yes, we’ll love our enemies.  It’s who we are.

If the people who are the church haven’t destroyed the church by now, this latest heartbreak won’t either.  God will work through faithful souls to bring the change God desires.  Jesus stands with those excluded and extends his nail-scarred hands to those who exclude.  The one who died on the cross rather than turn away from sinful humanity, the one raised by God—at whose name every knee will bow—that suffering servant will triumph over all foes (and sometimes even we are among those foes).

I wish all of us United Methodists (how ironic our name seems now) could simply be quiet for a moment and gather at the cross because at the cross there are no labels, no conservatives or progressives or moderates.  At the cross, no one is out and all are in.  At the cross, you’ll find only children, wayward and found, wondrously created and fully loved by God.  All are gathered in and all creation meets.  At the cross we are judged and forgiven; we die to be raised.  Kneeling there in as much humility as we can muster, I wish we would all confess our brokenness, our fear, our sins toward God and one another, and dive once more into God’s grace and mercy.  I wish we could start again.

Wishing doesn’t make it so, of course, but I know I need to go there, and I don’t believe I’ll be alone.

God is not done.  Christ lives and reigns.  And the Holy Spirit is working overtime.  Don’t quit.  The Good News is still good news.

In Christ,
Mark Westmoreland

Helpful General Conference 2019 Links:
For a summary of the plans presented at General Conference click HERE

For our North Georgia Annual Conference reports on General Conference click HERE

A message from Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson at the close of General Conference click HERE

For other reports from our United Methodist News Service click HERE

A statement from The Reconciling Ministries Network click HERE

For some secular reports on General Conference:
From the AJC
From NPR
From ABC News
From NBC News
From Fox News
From NY Times