As I am sure you are aware by now, on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to adopt the so-called “Traditional Plan” endorsing it as the denominations “way forward.” The Gospel Truth is that this plan is neither “traditional” nor is it a way forward. It is not traditional because it denies our heritage as a thinking person’s church that values scripture interpreted through the lens of reason, experience and tradition—those complimentary lenses have been shattered. It is not traditional because it denies the weight of Wesleyan theology that makes room for people of differing understandings to join their hearts and hands together in the pursuit of personal and social holiness. It is not traditional because it is based not on the mutual support, trust and engagement we call “Connectionalism.” Rather, it is based on suspicion, anger and isolation. And it is not a way forward because more than 70 percent of US delegates did not support it—and more importantly than the number of delegates is the clear and convincing evidence of numerous phone calls, texts, posts and emails from very moderate (even conservative) parishioners who are disgusted by the actions of the church, some of who are considering leaving.
I am grieved for the whole Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed, Asexual, community and their Allies and family members. As one of the pastors of this church, I am particularly devastated for those who have found their spiritual home at Barrington UMC. While I recognize that our faith community is irreparably tarnished by the actions of General Conference, I pledge to you that to the best of our ability and with every intentional act of love, the welcome and acceptance you have felt in this place will not diminish one iota. Indeed, the Lay and Clergy leadership of this church will work to make welcome and acceptance and full inclusion for all of God’s children even more profoundly evident by dismantling any restrictions, contrary actions or attitudes you have experienced in the past. As a community we will do our very best to turn the evil that was intended for you into something good and pleasing to God.
For those of you who love the United Methodist Church, I share your pain. As I wrote earlier this week, I am grieving the loss of our beloved Church this week. For me the UMC is the Church where many of my life-long friendships were formed; where I met and married my wife; where our children and first two great-grandchildren were baptized; it is the Church that called me and consecrated me into ministry.
I pledge to you that the actions of the General Conference will not define, describe or determine who and what Barrington UMC will be. I can say with confidence that the leadership of this church has absolutely no intention of continuing to be a part of a hateful, isolating, angry and discriminatory United Methodist Church. While the final outcome is not fully known, be assured that we are already doing the work and making the plans we need to make in order to ensure our future as a church that seeks to intentionally and sincerely welcome persons of all ages, nations and races; a church committed to building a diverse community that values people of all abilities, statuses, backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender expressions; a church that embraces and nurtures all people at any point in their faith journey and believes there is room at Christ’s Table for all.
Pastor Matthew and I invite you to a conversation next Sunday, March 10 beginning at 12:15 p.m. in the Sanctuary. We will pray together, receive questions, share what we know and begin to discern together how God is making a way forward for the church.
– Pastor Chris