This page was updated on March 2, 2019. Pastor Lance’s reflection on General Conference has been added. It is followed by the original post.
Dear TUMC Family,
By now you have probably heard rumors or seen headlines about what happened at the called General Conference in St. Louis this week. You may have questions about how this shapes our life together at TUMC. I would like to invite you to come to one of our two General Conference Debriefs (more details below) for a more detailed, face-to-face conversation about what happened and what it means for us.
What did happen at General Conference and what does it mean?
By a narrow margin of 53% to 47% of its 864 delegates, the General Conference maintained the Discipline’s language that has shaped our practices with respect to same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBT+ persons for the last 47 years. This means that United Methodists are not of one mind on Scriptural teaching regarding human sexuality and this will be discussed again in 14 months at the regular General Conference in Minneapolis.
Some of you are tired of the debates that happen every four years, while others are wondering if you can stay in a denomination that has not yet changed its practices. Wherever your heart is in this, I want to remind you that legislation doesn’t lead to greater understanding and compassion; only churches living out the mission of Jesus in community can do that.
How does this impact TUMC?
Nothing that was adopted by the General Conference changes anything that we are doing at TUMC. We believe that all people are made in God’s image and are of infinite value and matchless worth. We are stronger together than we ever could be apart. We do not all think alike, but we seek to love alike. And to that end, we are still a place that welcomes all people regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, socioeconomic status, political party and any other label or division the world might try and put on people.
TUMC is not a church that is one-dimensional in our understanding and experience of human sexuality, nor is the global United Methodist Church. We are one family worshiping God, growing together in the faith, caring for each another, and serving alongside one another. We are one in our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by “joining God’s work here and now by serving our neighbors far and near.”
We represent the broader US culture in the diversity of our membership. We have members of our faith community who are heterosexual, homosexual, and transgendered, as well as family members and close friends who are part of the LGBT+ community.
Everyone has been and always will be welcome at TUMC. This has not changed and it never will.
There is so much I want to share with you all about this complex issue, but I will save the rest for our upcoming General Conference Debriefs. Join us at 6:30PM in Rm. 620 of the Administration Building on either Monday, March 11, or Thursday, March 14. I look forward to having this conversation face-to-face with people of all ages. I hope that we will be able to turn from blame to wonder as we explore the realities of a local and global church with a body of members diverse in culture, context and gift. There is a place for everyone as we consider how we have been shaped by the actions of the General Conference.
In the meantime, I am holding each of you in prayer, remembering Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 12:26, “if one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it.” If your heart is heavy, know that you are not alone. We are here to journey with you through this season.
As always, dear friends, I want you to know that you are deeply loved. I also ask you to be generous with each other and I urge you to stay at the table as one family, committed to the mission of TUMC. Our community needs us to be strong, now more than ever. These are challenging times, but I am grateful to be your Pastor and to walk through these days together.
The following is the original post, which was published before General Conference on February 15, 2019.
Over the next few days, the United Methodist Church will be in the spotlight as 864 delegates and countless observers from all over the world gather in St. Louis for a special called session of our General Conference. The purpose of this unprecedented special session is to consider and act upon a report from the Commission on a Way Forward. The Conference will begin on Saturday, February 23, with a Day of Prayer and continue with three days of legislative work, wrapping up on Tuesday, February 26.
The Road to St. Louis
Over the last 40 years, conversations around differing understandings of human sexuality have increasingly taken center stage at General Conference. In 2016, the delegation took an unprecedented step and asked the Bishops to provide a way forward through the impasse. The Council of Bishops responded by proposing a Commission on a Way forward that met from 2016 to 2018 to examine every paragraph of our Book of Discipline relating to human sexuality and explore strategies that will maintain and strengthen the unity of our global connection. Their work culminated in a report that details three plans that will be considered by the General Conference next week.
How Are We Represented?
Voting delegates are elected from every Annual Conference throughout our connection. 58% of the delegation comes from conferences in the United States and 42% comes from outside of the United States (30% from Africa and 12% from Europe, Eurasia, the Philippines and other regions with a United Methodist presence). The Rio Texas Annual Conference will be represented by ten delegates. Rachel Wright, our Director of Global Mission, Community Impact, and Missional Storytelling, will be attending as a reserve delegate.
How Can I Follow General Conference?
The United Methodist Church is the second largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States and the only truly global denomination. Because of the interest of the broader culture in the conversations we will be having around human sexuality, you can expect coverage from a variety of media outlets. While headlines may speak very broadly about what is being discussed or decided, the reality will be much more nuanced. Be aware that caucus groups will make statements intended to shape the conversation in ways they believe will advance their agenda. Unfortunately, disparaging comments will most likely be made about people on multiple sides of the debate. It is helpful remember that only the General Conference can speak for the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist News Service is a good source of information coming out of the General Conference, and you can watch the live stream of the daily proceedings online. If you have any questions about anything you read or hear about General Conference, don’t hesitate to ask one of our Pastors.
Call to Prayer
Pray for all of the delegates who will be voting on legislation, for our Bishops as they preside over the conference, and for the staff and volunteers who make the conference possible. Pray that all conversations are tempered in love and respect. Pray that people would experience the presence and peace of God, center themselves on Jesus, and experience a movement of the Holy Spirit. Pray for United Methodists all over the world who may be feeling anxious about the future. Finally, pray that our witness and unity may be strengthened by the outcome of General Conference 2019.
Pastor Lance will update TUMC following General Conference. We will have plenty of time for prayer and conversation in the days, weeks, and months ahead and will seek the Holy Spirit’s direction for any decisions that may lie ahead. Above all, we will continue to be one family united in our mission to glory God and make disciples by “joining in God’s work here and now by serving our neighbors far and near.”
The Upper Room: Praying Our Way Forward
Following General Conference
General Conference Background
General Conference 2019 Website
United Methodist New Service Coverage of General Conference
Rio Texas Annual Conference News
Commission on a Way Forward
Commentary on Report from Commission on a Way Forward
Book of Discipline
Third Party Resources