Special General Conference 2019
A Message from the Western Jurisdiction Bishops
A Message from Pastor Bill
February 28, 2019
For sheer beauty of imagery, it’s hard to beat the 10th verse of Psalm 85. The psalmist is looking forward to a bright new time when the Lord will once again restore the fortunes of Israel. In this picture, the steadfast love of God reaches down from heaven while the faithfulness of God’s people reaches up from the earth. A beautiful kiss of greeting is described, wherein the people of God—now made whole by God’s righteousness and grace—establish a community of peace (shalom) and all dwell in security and love together.
Is this not the world we hope to experience as Christians? Trusting in Christ alone for our righteousness, and faithful to his command to “love one another as Christ has loved us”, are we not meant to share the peace of Christ with a waiting world? I long every day for a God-breathed expression of true community, where the ceaseless and steadfast love of God causes true peace and faithfulness to spring forth upon the earth.
But alas! Sometimes when we set out to do God’s work in the world, we people can get in the way of the very thing God is trying to do. And this week for United Methodists the long-awaited kiss between righteousness and peace seemed to take a step backward. By now most of you have heard the result of the special General Conference held in St. Louis. Having struggled for decades to resolve differences surrounding the ministry to and with LGBTQ persons in the United Methodist Church, delegates from around the world gathered in a special session to “find a way forward.” By the narrowest of margins, the assembled General Conference voted to retain the current restrictive language in our Book of Discipline and to beef up the enforcement of these restrictions. One of my colleagues, Rev. Brian Kent of Hope UMC in San Diego, has provided an excellent synopsis of the General Conference, which you can read in the March 3 edition of our weekly newsletter.
For members of the LGBTQ community, this week’s Conference felt like a gut-punch. It seems to them that the church they love and have called their home since birth has now said “there is no place for you here.” For all of us who are United Methodists, a deep rift has been revealed in the church which seems virtually irreparable. In these past 72 hours there has been talk of schism, of relocation to another communion, and of practicing a civil disobedience toward rules that are deemed exclusionary and unjust.
What I want to reaffirm in this moment is that all people—ALL people—are of sacred worth to God and are welcome at the Lord’s table. To our LGBTQ friends and family I especially want to communicate that FUMCO will continue to be a place of safety and welcome. Please know that Pastor Jerry and I are here for our whole church family, if you'd like to come by and talk things though.
The love of God is steadfast. It never ends, and it meant to be shared with all creation. While we don’t yet know what the final outworking of this week’s General Conference will mean for our United Methodist denomination, you and I continue to be children of God in search of that beautiful day when steadfast love and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
With that vision as our guiding light, I will see you in worship this Sunday. The Communion Table has already been set by Christ...please help me make sure that all people know they are welcome.
P.S.—Our Bishop, Grant Hagiya, has just announced that that there will be a worship service this coming Sunday, March 3, at 6:00 p.m., at the First UMC of Pasadena. Bishop Hagiya will preach and give perspective and direction at that time. The Conference is setting up a livestream so that you can participate online, and we will also be streaming the service here at FUMCO, if you’d like to participate here.