General Conference Report 2019
The results of the 2019 General Conference were disappointing for those who believe in an all-loving, all-inclusive God. There will be many questions and much soul searching as we move to the future. In the meantime, we are sharing the thoughts of our pastors and the Bishop of the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church, as well as links for those who wish to read more about it.
Pastor John Mueller and Pastor Erin Newcomb-Moore shared their thoughts:
As the pastors of Trinity United Methodist Church, we want to publicly state that despite the disappointing and upsetting actions (and inactions) of the recent Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, we believe God has not changed. We, too, have not changed. If anything we are even more committed to living into God’s vision of an all-inclusive community. We welcome everyone into the love and grace of God that can be experienced through participation in this community of faith. We want everyone to know, especially our LGBTQ+ siblings that you are fully welcome as you are--being the person God created you to be. All of our lives are enriched by sharing in this journey toward the realization of an all-inclusive community.
Bishop Devadhar issued the following letter that is posted on the conference website:
February 26, 2019
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with tumult. - Psalm 46:1-3
Dear Beloved in Christ,
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
We have just concluded the special session of the General Conference in St Louis. During this gathering of the global church, we worshiped and prayed together and spent time in Christian conferencing, but much remains unresolved and unknown.
Though the actions of the General Conference are still subject to review by the Judicial Council, we return with a Book of Discipline that moves us further from full inclusion. This is disheartening at best and despairing at worst.
While our call as United Methodists is to do good, do no harm, and stay in love with God ... I suspect we have fallen far shorter on the first two than the last. I ask that we spend time in prayerful confession of the ways our church has caused deep pain to beloved children of God, particularly LGBTQIA+ and their allies. No matter what plan you supported for the way forward, remember that when one part of the body suffers, so do we all - and so now we are all in need of healing.
My prayers continue for our church and for each of you in this covenantal community, for all LGBTQIA+ children of God and their allies, as well as for those who are listening to our words and watching our actions.
I continue to pray for a day when we can live together in the unified Spirit in a fully inclusive church. I celebrate the beauty and rich variety of gifts that God has created, and I have faith that God will create, in and through us, a beautiful incarnation of the Body of Christ for the transformation of the whole world.
As you gather with your congregations this Sunday, I pray you will build up one another in love, caring for each other’s needs, and praying for God’s spirit to inspire you to witness to Christ’s love in your communities.
In the next two weeks, your superintendents, in coordination with our delegation to this special session of General Conference, have scheduled opportunities for you to gather for support, prayer, and “Courageous Conversations” with one another as we process the actions - and inactions - of the general church and seek a faithful response. I hope and pray these will be opportunities for us to do good and begin to heal while we stay in love with God and each other.
May our faithful God hold us in strength as we witness to the powerful love of Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit, for such a time as this.
In Christ’s Love,
The following response to the actions of General Conference came from the Board of Ordained Ministries:
New England Conference Board of Ordained Ministry
Co-Chairs’ Response to the Special Session of General Conference
As Co-Chairs of The New England Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, we receive the actions of the 2019 Special Session of General Conference – “A Way Forward” – with deep concern. The General Conference compromised our baptismal theology, the bishop’s role in ordination and the authority of the Annual Conference.
A primary task of the Board of Ordained Ministry is to discern the call to licensed and ordained ministry in our church. While it is not the purview of the Board of Ordained Ministry to make decisions regarding marriage, we accept our call to fully support and hold clergy accountable to fidelity and faithfulness in covenant relationships.
Discernment of the call to ministry in the Christian Church is an ongoing process. We walk with our candidates in the process of discerning their vocations. We look to see that they manifest gifts for ministry as Licensed Local Pastors, readiness to serve as Provisional Members, and demonstrations of effectiveness in ministry as Ordained Deacons and Elders.
Peter came to recognize and celebrate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Gentile believers, radically altering and expanding his understanding of God’s action in the community of faith. Throughout its history the church has recognized the ever-widening circle of inclusion across ethnicity, gender and categories of “ritual cleanliness.” It is long past time we acknowledge the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the lives and ministries of LGBTQIA persons.
We believe the Board of Ordained Ministry of the New England Conference should respectfully maintain its current posture with regard to its discernment with those called to ministry in our midst: sexual orientation is not our concern, rather the manifestation of the Holy Spirit expressed in the gifts and graces of those hearing a call from God.
We believe the board has thoroughly examined all candidates and applicants in the qualifications for their ministries, and we stand by the decisions we have discerned together. We will not engage in or tolerate the harassment of others by extending inquiries into relationships and intimacy beyond the scope of fidelity in one’s covenant relationships.
We will continue to look for the Holy Spirit’s indicators of calling to see that God has gifted and empowered those articulating a call. This is the guiding principle in what compels us to license, commission, and ordain by the grace of God.
Rev. Dr. Charlotte Pridgen Randolph
Rev. Mark Demers
You can read the response letter sent out by the New England Cabinet here.
Up to date news and a video about the General Conference can be found on the New England District webpage.
On Saturday, March 9, from 10:00 a.m. until noon there was a de-briefing, discussion for the CT WMA District entitled: Post General Conference Session:Courageous Conversations at Trinity with over 150 pastors and laity in attendance. Pictures of this meeting can be viewed on the Trinity Photo Blog. The New England Conference has created a webpage summarizing the results of the Courageous Conversations sessions held throughout the conference. You can read this summary here.
The Reconciling Ministries Network has recently made a letter available for the laity of the New England Conference to sign if they want to go on record as being opposed to the General Conference report. You can read and sign it here.
For anyone wishing more information on General Conference and its outcome, we recommend the following references:
Article from the Washington Post: United Methodist Church votes to maintain its opposition to same-sex marriage, gay clergy
We would like to highlight this paragraph from the above article:
“Dawn Taylor-Storm, a delegate from Pennsylvania, trembled as she said at the microphone: ‘I speak for all who are at home feeling betrayed, harmed, undermined by this work….This conference is not a full expression of who we are as United Methodists. And hear me, friends. Resurrection happens on the third day, not because people voted for it. Resurrection happens on the third day because the movement of God could not be legislated. You see, God does not depend on a majority vote!”
Take time to listen to this beautiful song Child of God by Mark Miller.
An excellent NPR interview with a clergy person from New Hampshire who served as a New England delegate.
In the coming days and months we will be in prayer together affirming every person's worth and God's love for us all.