Sisters, Brothers, and Siblings in Christ, I greet you in the name of the Incarnate Love of Jesus Christ from St. Louis, Missouri.
The United Methodist Church called a Special Session of the General Conference to discuss matters of marriage and ordination of persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) in the life of our denomination. After a day of prayer, a day of review of the Commission on the Way Forward, and a day of legislative committee, I am compelled to write you a compassionate word as I am with your appointive clergy staff as delegates and observers to the proceedings of this Special General Conference.
God has created this beautifully diverse world. Scripture is our guide. Tradition is our reflection. Experience is our shared-life. Reason is our conversation-partner. Jesus embodied a Love where meeting people in the streets he would recognize them as “beloved.” The Holy Spirit continues to call us to grow, connect and serve all of God’s beloved children. The Church is a place where we grow in our discipleship and the place from where we are sent to serve.
We are witnessing change in our Church. Having open conversations about biblical interpretation and how we steward our monies for the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is a watershed moment. The conversation is hard, just as any critical conversation in family might be. We are in a critical conversation as a global Church. The proceedings today represented our denominational standing with our LGBTQ daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and neighbors. There were those who were assured by the convening and still others felt hurt, harmed and hated.
Jesus said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” This is the vision, reality and great hope for the kin-dom of God. This is the vision that we have found with the people of First United Methodist Church of Dallas.
Today, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted in its afternoon session to affirm our position of restrictions on the ordination of LGBTQ persons called by God to ministry and restrictions on our Church to celebrate same-sex weddings by our clergy and/or in our churches. There are many who are disappointed by this ruling. My heart is broken, as this initial ruling means that as a pastor I am removed from receiving the good news of God’s call being received and I am revoked from serving in a blessed life event as a wedding.
The United Methodist Church is at an impasse. However, FirstChurch will continue to be the welcoming, encouraging and life-affirming people as God has called us for over 170 years. Through those years, the Methodists continued to refine itself through splits and reformations— and, we were still FirstChurch. Today is like every other day: we will welcome all our neighbors. We will baptize. We will celebrate holy communion. We will proclaim the Gospel. We will read to a student in an elementary school. We will feed the hungry, visit the prisoner, heal the sick, and love one another.
I will see you on Sunday. Your clergy staff will see you on Sunday. We are better together!
We are held, in God’s Love,