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What does this mean for my church?

by | Feb 28, 2019 | General Conference News

By Rev. Ann Lyter, pastor of Scottsdale UMC

I was asked, “what does [the passage of the Traditional Plan] mean for Scottsdale UMC?” The short answer is, as a practical matter very little. I imagine that will be true for other congregations as well.

Thomas, Rev. Ann Lyter
Rev. Ann Lyter

Last Sunday was Consecration Sunday for Scottsdale United Methodist Church, the finale of our stewardship campaign. It might seem like odd timing, after the start of the year and immediately before the Special Session of General Conference. But it is when we have our winter visitors, a significant demographic for our congregation. With regard to pledging on the eve of the Special Session, what I told my congregation was that no matter what happened, we would gather on March 3 to break bread together at the Communion table. More than that, I encouraged them to make their pledge as a statement and a commitment to our community of faith and to their friends, neighbors and church family sitting next to them in the pews and living in their neighborhoods. Because for my congregation, it is this community, these people, and this church family that gathers to break bread, that prays together and that supports each other. Yes, we are part of the global church. But their membership and their closest connections and their hearts are here.

The rules of exclusion embodied in the Traditional Plan were largely in our Book of Discipline already. While the Traditional Plan, with its increased and mostly automatic sanctions for violations of the Book of Discipline, did receive a majority vote, a substantial portion of the plan was already ruled unconstitutional and cannot take effect. Moreover, the entire plan is under further review by the Judicial Council (the United Methodist equivalent to the Supreme Court) and may not withstand examination. There is nothing passed that requires an action by our local congregation right now nor will the passage of the Traditional Plan immediately impact the ministry of our congregation.

That means there is time. As a pastor, I will continue to study what it all means, and our jurisdictional and conference leaders will continue to guide us in understanding the implications of what passed and what was not. There is time for a measured response and discernment of God’s will for us and our ministry. In the meantime, we will continue in ministry to our community. We will go on as we have been, answering God’s call in this place and in our way. I pledge to continue to minister to all people to whom Christ calls me to minister. The Communion Table is Christ’s table, not mine and not the denomination’s, and as such it is open to all people who seek the grace offered there.

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