In September, I sent you an email following the September 3 Church Council meeting, where the Church at the Crossroads Commission shared their initial recommendations to help determine our response to the passing of The Traditional Plan at the called General Conference in St. Louis in February. You can
read that email here
In the weeks after our September Church Council meeting, the commission hosted three listening sessions where
church members were able to voice their thoughts and opinions on how FirstChurch should move forward in the light of the ruling. (
See the explainer video showed in each of those sessions.
) Over three sessions, people spoke openly about their reactions to the ruling, and we brainstormed a variety of strategies on how best to move forward. It is clear that while we hold diverse views, we share a strong love for this church, and its clergy, staff and members. Having these candid conversations was crucial to choosing our next steps, and we are grateful for all those who came together to discuss these important church polity issues.
With members' input collected, the commission presented the following recommendations at the October 21 Church Council meeting, which were affirmed and approved by the body:
- Host a church-wide ceremony for the celebration of marriage and reaffirmation of wedding vows at 6:30 p.m. December 29 here at FirstChurch. All married couples are invited to participate;
- Increase education related to human sexuality and the Bible, as well as offer education on legislative items for General Conference 2020;
- Create opportunities for the congregation to connect, including marriage and family enrichment workshops, more listening sessions and increased youth engagement;
- Embark on a "One-Mile Mission,” looking at how best to partner and interact with our neighbors within a mile radius of the church. This will include making our participation in the Arts District's Pride Block Party an annual commitment;
- Serve as a resource for our conference, including hosting listening sessions for other churches, and organizing a prayer schedule leading up to General Conference 2020.
- Continue to pay apportionments as consistent with our historical practice; and,
- Complete all administrative recommendations (read those here; most all had been completed as of the writing of this email).
Many of these educational and programmatic opportunities are currently being developed and planned. You will hear more about them in the coming weeks, as all of these new programs will at least be introduced, if not completed, by June 2020.
Yet, I want to make a point of clarification now regarding the service on December 29: this will be a worship service where any married couple can reaffirm their vows to one another. While this will be held three days before the Traditional Plan takes effect, we still believe it makes a strong statement on our commitment to inclusion. While we would love all our married couples to participate, attendance at this service is completely voluntary.
I am grateful for the faithfulness and dedication of our commission in creating these recommendations, and we look forward to delivering these next steps in the coming months. I realize this uncertain time in the life of our denomination can make us weary, but take heart that God is walking this journey with us. We are not alone.
Together, we are held...
In God's Love,
Dr. Andy Stoker