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OCTOBER 2017

Pastor’s News for October 2017

On Saturday September 16, as I mentioned in my sermon on September 10, I attended a conversation about A Way Forward for the United Methodist Church. I’d like to keep you up to date on what is happening in the larger church, so here is some information that might be helpful.

First – some background. The United Methodist Church is governed in a similar way to the United States – we have an executive branch (The Council of Bishops), a judicial branch (the Judicial Council, made up of lay and clergy) and a “house of representatives” (The General Conference, which is an approximately 1000-member body made up of equal members of lay and clergy from every conference of the church around the world). The General Conference, which is held every four years, is the only body that has the ability to change the rules of the church, which are contained in The Book of Discipline. Every paragraph of that book is up for review whenever Conference meets.

 

What is A Way Forward?

At the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the Council of Bishops proposed a commission be developed to “do a complete examination and possible revision of all of the paragraphs of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” As many of you know, the United Methodist Church has been divided around issues of human sexuality for many years. Currently, while the church acknowledges that all persons are of sacred worth, and all are eligible for membership, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” Further, “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” These or similar prohibitions were first added to the Discipline in 1972.

The United Methodist Church is one of only a few Protestant denominations that still prohibits ordination of LGBTQI individuals and does not allow for same sex weddings. At the last General Conference in 2012, the language in the Discipline was maintained by a majority of only 54% of the delegates. Clearly, the church is divided. In 2016, the conference decided not to vote but instead to empower the commission. The results of the commission’s work will be presented at a special General Conference slated for 2019.

At the conversation on September 16, I gathered with our Bishop and approximately 100 other East Ohio United Methodists. We worshipped together and listened to a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Bowles, a professor of ethics from the Northern Illinois Conference. And then we gathered in small groups to discuss the following questions:

 

1. In our diverse and global existence, what is the shared mission of the

Church?

2. Is there a proactive way for us to live together in our differences that

doesn’t presume we will resolve our differences? What would it be?

3. What might be a form of unity that would empower us living

together?

4. What is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in

relation to our differences?

 

As you can see, these questions do not directly address issues around human sexuality but rather how we can stay united as a church.

I was glad to be a part of this pilot conversation, although a bit frustrated that in my small group the hour long conversation did not seem to be enough for us to really understand one another and our diverse viewpoints. To allow each of us time to answer the four questions thoughtfully, there was not much room for dialogue.

The East Ohio Conference plans to repeat this event over the next few months at locations around Ohio, at the following dates and locations:

Oct. 23, 2017, 6-9 pm - Mentor UMC

Nov. 14, 2017, 6-9 pm - Western Reserve UMC

Feb. 3, 2018, 10 am-1 pm - Thoburn UMC

Feb. 4, 2018, 2-5 pm - Willard First UMC

Feb. 5, 2018, 6-9 pm - Lakewood UMC

Mar. 3, 2018, 9 am-12 pm - Church of the Lakes UMC

 

All conversations are open to both lay and clergy members of the Conference. If you are a part of the church, you are invited. Preregistration is required – you can sign up on the conference website, www.eocumc.com

If you’d like to have further discussion on this issue, please feel free to call me and make an appointment, or send me an email. I have great hopes for the future of the United Methodist Church, rich in its diversity. I am glad we understand the importance of our unity and also hope we remember the sacred worth of all of those involved in the conversation.

 

Fear Not

Pastor Dianne