As you likely already know, The United Methodist Church has been in dialogue about it’s doctrinal stance on the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons for quite some time. Our church, like many others, watched with great anticipation as the topic was debated by the Special Called General Conference of 2019. Because the General Conference (think: international body of elected decision makers) is the only entity within the UMC with the power to set our denominational doctrine, this is a dialogue that affects each local church around the world, and all eight million of our members.
As a result of General Conference of 2019, it appears likely that the General Conference of 2020 will be debating plans for a possible split of the United Methodist Church. The details of that split are up to the elected representatives who will attend General Conference. However, the following scenario looks likely.
It is possible that three new expressions (think: denominations) of Methodism will develop. Each Annual Conference (think: regional body of the UMC) and each local church will be required to vote on a decision to affiliate with one of the three new expressions. While much is still undecided (and General Conference can change anything ) it would appear that the three expressions of Methodism are likely to look as follows:
- Traditionalist. In this expression of Methodism, it is likely that weddings of LGBTQ+ persons will not be allowed on local church property. Pastors will not be allowed to officiate weddings on or off of local church property, LGBTQ+ persons will not be eligible for ordination as pastors in this expression.
- Centrist. In this expression of Methodism, it is likely that local churches will be given the authority to decide for themselves (through a vote of all members) whether or not LGBTQ+ weddings will be held on church property. Additionally, pastors will be able to decide for themselves whether or not to officiate weddings, whether on or off of local church property. (For instance: in this expression of Methodism, a church could vote not to allow LGBTQ+ weddings on church property, but the pastor will still be allowed to officiate weddings at another site). LGBTQ+ persons would be eligible for ordination as pastors.
- Progressive. In this expression of Methodism, it is likely that local churches would be required to allow LGBTQ+ weddings to be held on local church property, and pastors would not be allowed to use sexual orientation as a factor in determining whether or not to officiate the wedding. LGBTQ+ persons would be eligible for ordination as pastors.
Our congregation has already held two separate congregational information sessions on this topic in 2019. As we prepare for whatever 2020 may hold, I would like your help in determining where we stand as a congregation, and what we believe about this topic. To that end, I have created a survey (link below) for you to provide your anonymous feedback. Please consider helping us to develop a complete picture of what our membership believes by completing the survey below.
The survey will remain active throughout November. In January of 2020, I will hold another congregational information session where I will distribute the results of the survey, answer questions (as best I am able), and help to paint a picture for us of what the future of SHUMC can look like.
As a person, I believe in the full inclusion of our LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers, and I likewise believe that such decisions should be left up to (not forced upon) each individual local church. I would therefore be most comfortable with the Centrist expression of Methodism that may result from General Conference of 2020. As your pastor, I am committed to loving each of our members (and visitors) without exception, and regardless of the opinion that you hold or position that you choose. In short, I will love you and minister with you no matter what you might choose to believe about this topic.
If you have questions about General Conference, or would like prayer or assistance in working through what you believe, I am glad to help. Please contact my assistant, Michele, and she will be glad to make an appointment for you.
In the meantime, please know that you’re being upheld in prayer.
Dr. Matthew Scraper
Lead Pastor, SHUMC