Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who is called “Prince of Peace.”
General Conference 2019 is history, but it is not over. An ongoing scrutiny of the legislation passed is in process by the Judicial Council of our United Methodist Church. The members of the Judicial Council charged with determining whether the so-called “Traditional Plan” and the amendments to it are constitutional. I hold in prayer the members of the Judicial Council in this important task. My understanding is that they will be meeting around mid-April. We will keep you posted.
MEANWHILE, the work of our United Methodist churches continues. My hope was that no matter what General Conference decided, our churches would open for ministry as usual. I was not disappointed. In worship services the Sunday after GC 2019, I heard of exciting events that affirmed my hopes. In addition to, or in spite of anger, disappointment, and strong feelings about General Conference, there was inspiring worship, fellowship and refreshments, hugs and handshakes. Families, individuals, young people, children, seniors, and everything in between were present where I worshipped.
MEANWHILE, there were other offerings. Mission Teams being sent to other countries to spread the love of Christ and build homes. Medical missions of volunteers to attend to medical needs in distant places. Teams of builders to construct homes for those who were otherwise homeless. Classes for persons interested in becoming Stephen Ministers were announced. Concerts, support groups for many kinds of addictions. Grief groups were meeting to support those who had lost loved ones. All of this and much more in the name of The United Methodist Church and its commitment to service and love.
MEANWHILE, it is evident that our churches are very actively planning for future worship. Notices announcing services for Lent, Holy Week, Easter remind us of our hope in the resurrection as a core of our faith. That is ultimately the reason why we have come to be a part of our churches. Without this faith, our churches would be social clubs instead of places that nurture our spirits, connecting us one to the other in our common faith in Jesus Christ, where we received grace and love and return those spiritual gifts to the world in mission and outreach.
It is reassuring that our churches continue their ministries! What many experienced at General Conference was nothing short of conflict and combative animosity on the floor during a legislative process. Two sides, diametrically opposed to each other, speaking passionately about their views. It did not feel like we were really there to be the church. So as we left General Conference, there were wounded feelings, the dashed hopes and dreams, winners and losers. But the real loser was the Church!
MEANWHILE, a question that looms before us: who will lift the olive branch of peace? Peace will come to our beloved United Methodist Church only when the opposing factions declare: we cannot come to full and complete agreement about many things, among them the question of full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ siblings. Therefore, we agree to disagree and we commit ourselves to keep praying, studying and building bridges between the opposing sides in conflict about these matters.
MEANWHILE, for the sake of the mission of The United Methodist Church, for the sake of those that have yet to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, and for the sake of the life-transforming ministry we generously offer, let us lift the olive branch of peace.
In the long run, we may not be able to rescue The United Methodist Church from the conflict that continues. We may not see a way to a viable future for the church we know. So, MEANWHILE, as Judicial Council ponders, and as the full impact of General Conference unfolds, we must continue to demonstrate to the world that ministry is at the core of who we are in the Desert Southwest Conference.
In Christ, and for Christ,