Dear Hope Church Family,
I write this from St. Louis as we concluded the General Conference just a few hours ago tonight. I am filled with many reactions, emotions, disappointment, pain, shame, anger, grief, exhaustion, and fear, and still churning from all the tumult that took place. Those of you who have followed my coverage on social media are already well aware of how upsetting these last few days were. At the last Annual Conference, we of Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) voted to support the One Church Plan which allows for the clergy and church to their own level of discernment to respond in respect to LGBTQIA+ inclusiveness. At the General Conference, we gathered together, prayed, fasted, meditated, conferred with each other, and stood together through the legislations.
As I continue to reflect and process tonight of the chaos that took place within the past few days, I realized that I am not as upset about passing of the Traditional Plan, which speaks against the LGBTQIA+ from getting ordained, against the clergy from officiating same-gender marriages, or welcoming all people to Church. After all, we as a Church are bound to have varying beliefs, experiences, perspectives, and stances on many areas, and are bound to have disagreements- in as much as we may have within our local congregations, or among our interpersonal relationships. I am more upset about witnessing how we, the United Methodists who proclaim to the power of Christ’s Resurrection, God’s grace, and merciful love, who claimed, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” as our denominational slogan hurled insults, shamed, harmed, scarred and charged against those who only wished to be let in, to be openly included-the LGBTQIA+ who are also United Methodists in Christ! The majority of the opposition against the One Church plan arose from the African Conferences, the Philippines, and Eastern and Central Russian Conferences, where the Conferences are already challenged to grow (in competition against other religions), and who consider homosexuality a sin and LGBTQIA+ population as sinners, and thus would not welcome them. As expected, various justification from biblical, theological, and social perspectives were used.
Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It initiates us into 40 days of Lent, where we are to do so much introspection, self-reflection, and truly coming undone through Bible studies, daily devotions, prayers, meditations, and fasting, or tasking. Ash Wednesday is a humble reminder that God created us- ALL of us, from dust, and that someday, we will return to dust. Most of all, accepting of Christ in our lives begins with confession that we are ALL sinners and thus seek to God in repentance to change from our sinful ways. God in God’s grace receives us, forgives us, redeems us, reconciles with us, and made hope for salvation available for ALL of us through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If God can forgive us of our sins and love us, can we at least begin with trying to forgive those who hurt us? As for me, after the General Conference, I would have to work on forgiving those who pained and harmed one another, especially to those who seek to be welcomed and included by our United Methodist Church, and to be One in Christ.
By the time you read this, it is very probable that you have already heard of this division within our UM Church from the news media. As I continue to sit in my quiet space and continue to pray and process all this, I am reminded by the Holy Spirit, of the Scripture that we studied in our last week's Bible study class.
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”~~Matthew 5:41
It looks like our Northern Illinois Conference and the majority of our United Methodist Church in United States would just have to go two miles.
Let us prepare for the season of reflection, introspection, confession, and repentance. Come Holy Spirit!
Yours in Christ’s Service,