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Response to the General Conference Special Session

by Pastor Rai

The three-day Special Session of the General Conference called to address the inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons into the full life of the United Methodist Church concluded in St. Louis, Mo., on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The Traditional Plan passed by a margin of 54.3% votes in favor of the plan to 47.7% votes against, a margin of 54 votes. The Traditional Plan affirms the church’s current bans on ordaining LGBTQ+ clergy and officiating at or hosting same-sex marriages. Additionally, the plan enhances the accountability to the church’s requirements and streamlines the process of penalty enforcement for those who violate the church’s ban on marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ persons.

The Traditional Plan will now go before the UMC’s Judicial Council, which serves as the “supreme court” of the United Methodist Church, for declaratory decisions. The judicial council will look at the constitutionality of the individual petitions, some of which have already been declared unconstitutional under church law. The Judicial Council meets April 23-25 in Evanston, Ill.

If everything moves forward, the Traditional Plan would take effect January 1, 2020.

With all that we know about the Traditional Plan and what happened at the General Conference, there is still a lot we don’t know. While many were hoping for a firm resolution to this impasse, it seems we are still in a holding pattern of sorts. We will do our best to keep you informed of how this legislation will continue to be perfected.

We also know that our brothers and sisters in Christ who are members of the LGBTQ+ community have been harmed by the message coming from the General Conference. If you or someone you love is grieving this decision, we want you to know that you are deeply loved and we treasure you and the gifts you bring to the life of this church. We will continue to be in prayer with and for you. I, along with Pastor Earl, personally welcome any believer in Jesus who is a member or advocate of the LGBTQ+ community to call upon us for support and prayers.

As pastors we are called to serve all the members of the church. Regardless of which orientation or interpretative lens used to understand the Holy Scriptures, and regardless of this partition which has divided the church for near half a century, I assure you that every member of the body of Christ has as its aim to love as Jesus commanded us. Members of this church mirror the delegates of the General Conference, and espouse all sides of this issue, each strongly assured of God’s guidance. And God is with us all, as Jesus promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” To that end, if you desire support and prayers, from Pastor Earl or from me, we are personally committed to minister among all the members of Christ body, and welcome you to call upon us.

To help us further understand the implications of the General Conference, Great Plains Bishop Rueben Saenz, Jr. will be hosting regional meetings in March and April. The closest meeting to us will be held on Saturday, March 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Columbus First United Methodist Church, 2710 14th St. All are welcome to attend.

Thank you for being in prayer with us during this time. Let us continue to hold one another in prayer as we consider how best we can continue to have open hearts, open minds and open doors.

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