by Rev. Jeff Wells
Church of the Village
New York, NY
At a conference called specifically to address the place of LGBTQI persons in the UMC, already on Saturday, February 23, there was great spiritual harm done as an entire morning went by—on what was publicized as a day of prayer and worship—without a single expression of prayer for or even mention of LGBTQI persons. Only when some of our New York delegates and others expressed their pain and outrage was this corrected to a small extent at the beginning of the afternoon session.
This turned out to be only a minor precursor for what would come.
February 24, 2019 was a very dark day in the history of the United Methodist Church. The Modified Traditional Plan – which would seek to rapidly expel pastors and bishops who do not abide by its hateful, homophobic, and discriminatory rules – garnered the most votes of the four potential plans in the “priority” voting by delegates.
While there is much legislative work yet to be done, this is a very bad sign for the future of the UMC. Should the Traditional Plan pass in the next two days, it would mean the end of the UMC as we know it. In fact, the UMC would remain “Methodist” in name only, since this plan and its backers have no relationship to the Methodism espoused by John and Charles Wesley. It would overturn many of the most precious aspects of both Jesus’ teachings and Wesleyan theology and practice, including: valuing theological diversity, affirming a strong connection between personal holiness and social justice, emphasizing grace and mercy over harsh judgment, a foundational focus on love over the law, and the proclamation that every person is a beloved child of God. Should this occur, I am confident that Methodism would live on in a variety of loving, inclusive expressions, but it would no longer be found inside of the United Methodist Church.
I implore you to continue to pray with all your might, for all of the delegates and other representatives here in St. Louis, for Bishop Bickerton, and in particular for all of our queer siblings who are feeling the shock of this day. Pray for the Holy Spirit to be powerfully present on Monday and Tuesday.
May God’s Spirit of love and justice break open hardened hearts and closed minds and help us make a different outcome possible.