“I encourage you to live as people worthy of the call you received from God. Conduct yourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, Common English Bible)
These words from Ephesians are so important to us today. On February 23-26, 2019, a Special Session of General Conference will meet to make decisions about our unity as a denomination. The General Conference is the body that can make decisions and rules for the entire United Methodist Church; it is a body made up of clergy and laity representatives from every conference in the church. Our denomination has been arguing over issues of human sexuality for years. It became clear at the 2016 General Conference (which I attended) that the arguing was impeding our ability to live out our mission. Hence the body took the unprecedented move of asking the Council of Bishops to discern a way forward for us. The Commission on the Way Forward was formed and after holy conferencing, prayer, discernment and frankly hard work; they have recommended a plan, The One Church Plan as the way to be in ministry together even though we have disagreements related to human sexuality. Other plans have been put forward and are available to be read. The Special Session in February 2019 will focus on the recommendation of the Commission on the Way Forward. This fall, we will be having Holy Huddles across the conference to consider and talk about these findings, learn about the plans, and discuss them. Click here to see the complete schedule of Holy Huddles. We will have three sets of Holy Huddles to cover the West District, but you may attend the Holy Huddle for you as laity or clergy at any location. There are also written and video resources to help us learn about the process and the plans. It is important as we approach this important time that we know what is being proposed and hear from those who are proposing it and that we consider it together.
In the midst of this time of discernment, I hope and pray that we live the words of Ephesians- that we live as people worthy of the call we received from God, that we conduct ourselves with humility, gentleness, and patience, that accept each other with love and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties us together. Our unity does not come from agreeing on issues even important ones, our unity comes from Jesus Christ. It comes from our common devotion and love for him and our common gratitude for his saving love for us and for all people of all times. It comes from our commitment to be like him and to participate in the kingdom of God that is in our midst. We will always find things that we disagree on, even important things, but our mission to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is bigger than our disagreements. Our purpose to be a courageous church: loving like Jesus, acting for justice and united in hope is greater than the disagreements that seek to divide us. John Wesley, our founder said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” I invite you to attend the Holy Huddles of your choice that we might navigate through the year ahead united in hope. I’ll see you there.
United in one Lord, one faith, one baptism,