General Conference 2019
Dear First Church,

United Methodist delegates from around the world gathered on February 23-26, 2019, to consider proposals regarding the marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons. Historically, our denomination has NOT allowed either. But, in recent years, a growing number of pastors have performed same-gender marriages and many LGBTQ persons have been ordained, in spite of “official” United Methodist policy. This has created a growing rift between “traditionalists,” who wish to maintain our policies and desire more accountability, and “progressives,” who believe the United Methodist Church should allow for the marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons, and are willing to challenge the status quo by breaking the rules.

The purpose of this gathering was to seek a way forward, that traditionalists and progressives could accept. In the end, our current policies to NOT marry or ordain LGBTQ persons were preserved, as well as raising the bar for accountability. I should note, 438 delegates voted in favor of maintaining our current policies and adding higher accountability, and 384 voted against. Obviously, we are still deeply divided.

What does this mean for First Church Coral Springs?
  • For the foreseeable future, First Church Coral Springs will not have an LGBTQ pastor.
  • For the foreseeable future, First Church will not host same-gender weddings and your pastors will not officiate same-gender ceremonies.
  • IN EVERY OTHER WAY, LGBTQ persons and their families, will be welcome to attend, participate, join, serve, and lead at First Church. This policy does NOT change our conviction that ALL people have sacred worth, ALL people need love and acceptance, and ALL people need Jesus. We – STILL – love first!
  • We continue to be the CHURCH – a diverse gathering of imperfect people who love Jesus and one another, and are saved only by God’s generous grace.

I will confess, I’m deeply saddened by this decision. I’m sad for my LGBTQ friends, who love Jesus and want to serve him. I’m sad for the families of LGBTQ persons. I am sad for our own members, who are hurt, and wondering if there’s a place for them here. I’m sad for the painful rift running down the middle of our denomination, and for those who now feel excluded.  

While, technically, nothing changed, I’ve always been part of a denomination actively wrestling with this issue. I was comfortable living with our policies, believing we were working toward something more accepting and inclusive. While I’ve been a long-time ally of the LGBTQ community, I’ve never violated United Methodist policy, patiently hoping these policies may change. But, now, it appears we’ve made a formal, firm, final decision. And, while that decision was fairly made by a majority - who sincerely and prayerfully believe this decision is biblical and right - I’m painfully aware of how this decision makes many LGBTQ people and their families, friends and allies feel unwanted, shunned, excluded, and unfairly singled-out. I became a United Methodist because we say we believe in the sacred worth of ALL people.  Many, today, do not feel like they have sacred worth in the eyes of the United Methodist Church. That makes me very sad.

So, let us please be sensitive as we move forward. If you’re hurt by this decision, know you’re not alone. If you’re in favor of this decision, and you have every right to be, please be gracious toward those who cannot agree with you. If this decision doesn’t affect you, one way or another, please be sensitive and caring toward those who are.  

Finally, I should mention that some of the reporting in the media is incomplete and sensationalized. And, some of this will take months to ratify and implement. As the details become clearer, I will make them available to you. In the meantime, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask. And, please pray for First Church and for the United Methodist Church.

Peace be with us all,

Vance

Peace,

Pastor Vance
vance@welovefirst.church