Dear Church Family at Lebanon UMC,
The most important thing I want to say is this: Nothing, nothing, nothing in all of creation can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). This is true for all of us, but it is especially important to say it to folks in our congregation, community, and families who are LGBTQ+. If you or someone you know are struggling to feel that love and worth right now, please talk to me (call me literally any time) or reach out for other support. You are beloved.
For I Am Convinced…
By now, many of you have heard that the General Conference (GC) voted this week– by a very small margin, 53% to 47%– to not only maintain our denomination’s restriction on ordination and marriage for LGBTQ+ Methodists, but to strengthen those restrictions. The meeting was tense, emotional, and painful, and did not go at all as we had hoped. Grim as this seems, I believe that there are many reasons for hope. I encourage us to keep these in mind.
1. This vote was not decisive.
What this vote reveals, more than anything, is that our denomination is deeply divided. Can you imagine if we were taking a vote as a congregation about something huge, and it passed with 53 percent? That most certainly wouldn’t indicate a consensus, but would demonstrate that we have more work to do, more conversations to have.
2. The legislation may not be binding.
More than half of what was passed by the GC had already been ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council (which is like the Methodist Supreme Court). We have no idea yet what, if any, of these new policies will actually take effect.
3. The General Conference is not the Church.
Much like the Congress of the USA, GC is a representative body of some pretty human humans. The polarization, politicking, and even the decisions seen there still do not represent the faith and service of the people of The United Methodist Church. Where is that represented? Local churches, just like ours. We are the church.
4. The voices of LGBTQ+ people were heard like never before.
The GC allowed for debate on a plan that would simply remove all restrictive language, and many LGBTQ+ and allied voices spoke powerfully to this and against the division and restrictions. The “Simple Plan” drew 40% of the vote, far better than we had hoped. The speeches and prayers and songs demonstrated that LGBTQ+ people are most certainly already Spirit-filled lay and clergy leaders in the church.
5. Moderates and allies are emboldened.
Precisely because the conversation became so ugly, and so focused on dividing the church, those in the “center” were shocked that folks couldn’t agree to disagree. These moderates joined forces with the more zealous advocates for inclusivity. Furthermore, many people who have previously been open but not sure what to do to help have entered the struggle full force. The heart of The UMC woke up, and is fighting for the inclusion of all people. Some are even starting their support from a place of listening to LGBTQ people and people of color first, which allows those most harmed to drive the movement toward their own liberation. This is holy work.
6. People are “thinking outside the box.”
In multiple places, conversations are happening about “what next?” Whether the movement for inclusion remains a faithful dissent within The UMC, or a new version of what Methodism looks like (and many options in between), things cannot and will not be business as usual. The New England Annual Conference and each individual church has many possibilities moving forward, and time to prayerfully consider them.
7. Our ministry does not change.
In the mean time, nothing keeps us from sharing the love of God. The people of Lebanon UMC will keep doing what we are doing, and being the people God calls us to be, bound to one another by our shared love, service, and faith. We continue to welcome and include all persons, and to hold fast to our conviction that the church is incomplete when anyone is excluded. No vote can take that away.
… Nothing Can Separate Us from the Love of God.
God is with us, and this is not our church, not our denomination, not our movement. These things– our very selves– belong to God. And God’s got us. The God who created, redeems, and sustains us is never letting us go. And God’s got work for us to do yet.
I miss you and will see you soon!
2 thoughts on “Letter to my Congregation”
You are misleading in point number 2. That was the original and first revision sent to the JC. That does not represent the actual legislation that was passed.
Who do you Fear? Who do you serve? What do you seek? The praise of people or The one true God?
Do you believe holiness is required for the believer?
2 Corinthians 7:1
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
2 Corinthians 6:16-18
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
1 Peter 1:15-17
But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
2 Peter 3:10-11
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
2 Peter 2:4-9,13-14,20-21
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
Be not ye therefore partakers with them.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
It’s clear. God doesn’t play, or change. Sin is not to be practiced.
1 John 3:5-10,22
And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.
Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
1 John 5:18
We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.