Dear Point Hope Family,
General Conference 2019 is over. The global, denomination-wide United Methodist legislative gathering met February 23 – 26 in a special session to deal with issues related to human sexuality. The full outcome of what this means for our denomination remains unknown, but I did not want to wait to share with you the outcomes as I understand them now.
A bit of context may be necessary to help you understand what our church is going through. Since 1972, The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) official stance has been that homosexual persons are of sacred worth and loved by God, but that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. As a result, church law has forbidden clergy to officiate gay weddings and gay weddings are not allowed to take place in church buildings. Additionally, gay persons are disqualified from ordination and serving as clergy.
The 2016 General Conference asked the Council of Bishops to name a commission to present a way forward at a special called General Conference in 2019 because the 2016 General Council meeting had become extremely contentious surrounding this language on human sexuality in the Book of Discipline. The General Conference 2019 is the meeting that has just ended. Four plans were presented, three having arisen from the Commission on a Way Forward with a fourth plan coming from another group. The plan that passed is called the Traditional Plan. This plan leaves in place the existing wording regarding human sexuality and creates processes to hold denominational leaders accountable to church law. In other words, the UMC will not allow same-sex weddings or self-avowed, practicing homosexuals to serve as clergy.
In short, this means nothing changes for Point Hope UMC. The decisions made by General Conference in no way change the way we operate as a church. Our Point Hope community has been a welcoming place for all persons and we will continue to be this place. The future is less clear for the UMC as a whole. Church law has been modified to allow congregations and clergy who cannot in good conscience abide by church law to gracefully exit the denomination. This would include the ability of a congregation to keep its property assets. As stated earlier, the full outcome of General Conference 2019 remains to be seen. The Judicial Council will review legislation to ensure it is in keeping with the UMC’s constitution and the path forward for many local congregations will have to be discerned. I would ask that you would pray for our Global United Methodist Church over the next several weeks and months. Thank you in advance for praying and for being The Church.
Pastor Elizbeth Sullivan
Link to the United Methodist Church South Carolina Conference recap from delegates in attendance and statement from Bishop L. Jonathan Holston.