I realize that some folks follow the happenings of the larger United Methodist denomination and some members at Centenary do not. But there have been some big things taking place in the realm of human sexuality in our denomination and we need to understand what they mean. Let me be clear. I am not sharing my opinion on these happenings and this is not a political statement about these happenings. This is merely an opportunity to educate ourselves about what is taking place beyond us as a church but will affect us as a church.
The United Methodist Church has been wrestling with the issue of human sexuality for a couple of decades. But events within the last year have brought a new dynamic to the conversation. Here are a few bullet points to give you a general picture of these events.
- May of 2016 at General Conference the delegates representing the United Methodist Church from around the world voted to create a Commission on a Way Forward that consists of 32 people from around the United Methodist Church convened by 3 Bishops. The work of this commission is to find a possible path forward for our church around the issue of human sexuality. Our reality is that we have differing theological and Biblical views on this issue and it is putting pressure on our global denomination. Instead of taking votes on language in our Book of Discipline which has been our historical pattern, this is the first time we have tried a new approach.
- July of 2016 at Jurisdictional Conference the Western Jurisdictional voted to elect a gay bishop. Bishop Karen Oliveto is married to another woman.
- April of 2017 our Judicial Council (think Supreme Court for the UMC) rendered a ruling last week on the election of Bishop Oliveto. The judgement basically said that the consecration of a gay bishop violates our church law but she remains an active bishop until official charges are made and processed per our typical complaint process.
- February 2019 there will be a special called General Conference to hear the report of the Commission on a Way Forward. This will actually be the moment when decisions will then affect our denomination and more specifically, our church. As our denomination tries to figure out what this new way may look like we have churches and Methodists who are at their brink and these decisions could affect people choosing to stay or leave our denomination for theological reasons. Centenary will not be immune to those tensions as we have differing perspectives right here at home.
I have included links to a couple of other resources in this blog so you can see summaries or statements by people far more informed than I am on these happenings. They are worth a look including the most recent letter from Bishop Paul Leeland, of our own Western North Carolina Conference.
These are important times to hold our Church in prayer as we await the work of the Commission. These are difficult times for many in our denomination as we do have different perspectives on the issue of homosexuality and how it affects leadership within our churches as well as our stance on marriage. These are challenging times as our denomination embraces the beauty and the obstacles of being a global Church where differing cultures clash theologically.
There are so many factors that have influenced our Church so I encourage you to read a history that briefly summarizes (in 5-7 minutes!) what has brought us to this point written by Bishop Ken Carter who is from Western North Carolina and is one of the 3 presiding bishops for the Commission but is currently serving the Florida Conference.
Finally this is just a good synopsis of where we are written by Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson from the North Georgia Conference and also includes the statement from our Council of Bishops reacting to the Judicial Council’s ruling last week.
I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Mostly we are in a place of waiting and praying for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. As there are updates to share, I will pass them along. In the mean time, we might do well to reflect on our own theological understanding of human sexuality. But that will be a blog for another day.
Grace and Peace,