Don’t get upset over evildoers;
don’t be jealous of those who do wrong,
because they will fade fast, like grass;
they will wither like green vegetables.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
live in the land, and farm faithfulness.
Enjoy the Lord,
and he will give you what your heart asks.
Psalm 37:1-4 (CEB)
The building pictured above is the St. Louis Convention Center. One thousand elected delegates, United Methodist laity and clergy in equal representation, are making their way to Missouri for a specially called General Conference beginning Saturday and running through Tuesday. These delegates from our conference and all conferences around the world are to receive a report from a group called the Commission on the Way Forward. The Commission has been tasked with seeking a way to preserve church unity in a time of disagreement over how we are to be in ministry with LGBTQIA people. It’s no small task. You can read more about the plans and what may happen next here. I share this today for a few reasons.
First, it will make national headlines. There are a lot of United Methodists out there, and when religious people gather to discuss known hot-button issues, there is an expectation of a dramatic story. I hope we disappoint these expectations by approaching these conversations with mutual love and concern for one another independent of whether or not we agree. There will also be many, many misunderstandings broadcast over just what is being discussed or voted on and what it will mean for our denomination in the years to come. I pray we will all be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19 NIV) and always consider the sources of our information. Your best source for informed, nuanced information will be the United Methodist News Service (umnews.org).
Second, there is a very good chance none of the plans put forward receive enough support and we continue with our current Discipline. Even if one of the plans is supported, the next General Conference in May 2020 will be charged with implementation, and it could be another four years before things really shake out. My encouragement to all of us is to remain patient and focused on the work God has placed before us here today.
No matter what happens, I pray we will continue to embody the United Methodist Church’s commitment to “Open Hearts, Open Minds, and Open Doors.” In everything we do as Flemington UMC from small group studies to the sacrament of Holy Communion may we work to realize this calling until all are truly welcome to participate.
Finally, we remain the United Methodist Church here in Flemington. This week has seen us host worship and fellowship Sunday, Bible study on Tuesday afternoon, raucous Cub Scouts Tuesday evening, infant health screenings Wednesday, all with drop-in pastoral counseling and prayer and other means of witnessing to the grace of God to our neighbors. We will remain a community awake to the reality of God’s grace in both the ordinary and extraordinary, and will work to grow in grace day by day. We have a charge to keep, and I pray we remain faithful and focused on this work together.
Grace and Peace,