Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ.
The Called Special Session of the General Conference concluded on February 26, 2019. The opening day of the conference was devoted to a day of prayer. Delegates prayed for the world, the church, the ministry, one another, and themselves.
The delegates of the conference worked diligently seeking a way to find a way forward for the denomination around issues of human sexuality, specifically how we ministry with LGBTQIA persons. The United Methodist Church continues to affirm that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” Additionally, the Church affirms that “God’s grace is available to all” and aspires “to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (Quotes from The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶161G.)
The conference voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage, continued the policy that does not provide for clergy to officiate or churches to host same-gender weddings, and continues the current standards for ordination.
The conference adopted legislation requiring bishops to provide additional certification that they will uphold provisions of the Discipline or face involuntary changes in relationship with the church, to ensure persons nominated to credentialing bodies uphold all the Discipline and to guide the process for the administration of complaints.
These matters were referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory ruling regarding their constitutionality. When the Judicial Council releases their findings after their review of the legislation, the Church will then know what has been enacted. For now, please continue to pray for the church, for all who have felt pain and harm from the proceedings, and for God to guide us in the path ahead.
A plan for a church to disaffiliate from the denomination was approved. The Oklahoma Conference delegates dedicated themselves to tasks before them. The process was emotionally challenging for everyone in the room, regardless of their convictions. Thank you for your prayers before and during the meeting. Please continue to pray for the church.
(Bishop of the Oklahoma Area)
Bishop James Nunn
As is mentioned above, what was approved by the General Conference will have to be reviewed by our denomination’s Judicial Council to determine its constitutionality. It has been announced that the Judicial Council will be doing this work at their next scheduled meeting during the last week of April. Since several of the petitions which were passed as a part of the Traditional Plan had previously been ruled as unconstitutional, we won’t know exactly what of the legislation passed by the General Conference will be implemented until after the Judicial Council announces their decisions. These are the facts as I know them.
The next question to address is, what does this mean for us at Quail Springs United Methodist Church? While only the General Conference can speak for the denomination, and Bishop Nunn speaks in some regards for the Annual Conference, as the senior minister at Quail Springs UMC, I can speak to our experience here. Again, as I have repeatedly said:
Nothing that could have been or was decided by the Special Session of the General Conference will prohibit us from continuing to preach and model the acceptance and welcoming of all people into the Body of Christ at QSUMC.
Nothing will prohibit us from continuing to preach and model that all people are created in the image of God, are beloved by God, and have sacred worth.
Nothing will prohibit us from striving to be in ministry to and with all people.
Now that General Conference is over, all of these continue to be true. Irrespective of what happens beyond us, at Quail Springs UMC we will continue to live out these core values of the Christian faith. To our LGBTQIA members, their families, and friends, you are just as welcome, included, valued, and loved in the life and ministries of this local church today as you were last week, last month, and last year.
I would like to note several items to help us put into perspective what happened at the Special Session of General Conference. No single vote on any of the plans considered was unanimous. The One Church Plan, which would have allowed clergy, churches, annual conferences, and bishops to determine for themselves whether or not they would officiate same-sex weddings, allow “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy to serve their churches, or ordain “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy was supported by two thirds of the delegates from the United States and more than 60% of our bishops. When the One Church Plan came to the floor for a vote, of the 800 plus people voting, if only 26 delegates had voted differently, it would have passed.
For those of us who supported the One Church Plan, this is disappointing, but there was not an overwhelming rejection of what the One Church Plan was trying to accomplish by every United Methodist there is. What this was, was a narrow electoral defeat. Again, if 26 delegates had voted differently, this is a very different conversation.
One of the most profound lessons I learned during my previous career in politics is, there is always another election. There was nothing decided at this Special Session of the General Conference in St. Louis which cannot be taken up and addressed, or even changed, by the next regularly scheduled General Conference which will occur in roughly 12 months in 2020.
With all of this I say, to those who feel like hope is lost, this was a loss, but one which can be taken up again, soon. I also learned from my political career that the worst thing to do when you experience a loss or setback is to give-up or just quit. Those that preserver through disappointment have an infinitely greater ability to affect what the ultimate outcome will be over those who abandon the cause because of defeat.
I am personally saddened by what transpired at the Special Session of the General Conference, but I will neither give up because of it nor be consumed by it. I will continue to serve in and through a local church filled with people I love, serving in a denomination where I agree with much, and disagree with much as well, striving to help both become what I believe they are call and created to be. My personal, professional, and spiritual commitments and convictions will not be destroyed, uprooted, or even swayed because of 26 delegates choosing to vote one way instead of another.
For many of you, what happened was hard, disappointing, and even hurtful. To you, I am genuinely sorry. As we discussed three Sundays ago, when one member of the Body of Christ weeps and mourns, we weep and mourn together. For those who are brokenhearted, I weep and mourn with you this day.
Here is my request to all who are a part of QSUMC or in any way consider QSUMC to be your church home; continue to have hope and persevere in help making this local church all it can and should be. As Paul says in Romans, “And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Preserving through this difficult time gives us the ability to have hope that the Holy Spirit can make all of us have the same heart as Jesus Christ and thus seek his will in all things. Giving up does the opposite.
I pray for you. I pray for our local church. I pray for our denomination. I pray for those whom this was a devastating moment in their faith. I pray for those who are happy about what occurred. I pray for those who consider themselves to be unaffected, uninvolved, or disinterested in this process altogether. I pray that what was done by a small group of people in St. Louis this past week will not be allowed to damage or destroy the unity, the mutual love, respect, and valuing we have for all people within this congregation. I believe allowing what was decided in St. Louis to damage or destroy the great ministry and relationships we have and continue to grow here would be the greatest travesty of all.
I hope that you will be with us this Sunday both in worship, and in the debriefing and processing regarding General Conference that we will have after the 11:00 am service in the CLC. If there is inclement weather this Sunday, which is currently a possibility, you can be a part of our worship services and the gathering afterward through Facebook Live on our Facebook page.
Please know I have nothing but Christian love for all of you, and I believe that irrespective of what happened at this or any General Conference, we can continue to strive to be the Body of Christ that God is calling us to be for all.
Yours faithfully in Christ,
Rev. Kris Tate