This Sunday is World Communion Sunday which is observed by a variety of denominations around the globe. The emphasis is on the fact that we are part of the larger Body of Christ as the church. Sometimes we get caught up in our own denomination and we forget that there is a larger universal witness to which we belong.
One of the things on which The United Methodist Church is focused is the special called General Conference of 2019 to be held in February in St. Louis. You may have read about it in Sunday’s Oklahoman. The topic is human sexuality and more specifically, how the church responds to our LGBTQ neighbors and their families. The Council of Bishops put together a special Commission to tackle how we might best pursue our future as a denomination. While all in our church would seek to include LGBTQ neighbors in the life of the church, there are differences of opinion on what that should look like.
Currently, our polity (found in the Book of Discipline which is updated every four years) prohibits same gender weddings. Gay or lesbian clergy who are in a committed relationship are not permitted to serve in our denomination. Some believe that this is the correct understanding and others believe that such a stance is not the best practice for inclusion of those outside the church.
The Commission on A Way Forward has developed two plans (The One Church Plan and the Connectional Conference Plan) with a third (the Traditionalist Plan) being adopted by the Commission but not written by the Commission. Other legislation has also been submitted to the 2019 General Conference surrounding this issue but these three plans seem to garner the most attention since they are being presented by the body that has studied it the most.
There will be a special conference gathering this Friday, October 5th at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City from 2 to 4 pm. As one of the seven clergy delegates elected to this called General Conference, I will also be present at this meeting. If you want to register to attend the free event, you can do so online.
If you are unable to attend, our church will be having our own meeting surrounding this issue sometime after October. My reason for delay is that the Judicial Council will be ruling in late October on whether these plans will require constitutional amendments or not. The significance of this ruling is that a constitutional amendment will require a 2/3 majority rather than a simple majority. Furthermore, it would require a 2/3 majority of all of the voting members of all of the annual conferences across the denomination which is world-wide. We know that the Connectional Conference plan will require constitutional amendments and so the likelihood of it passing is not very strong. The word “longshot” comes to mind. If all three of the plans require constitutional amendments, it is very likely that none of them will pass. This means that our current language and stance would remain in effect. So it may be better to wait on learning the details until we hear a ruling from the Judicial Council. This is why we are waiting to discuss it in our church.
So while this is a contentious issue, I would remind us of Sunday’s celebration. World Communion Sunday is one of my favorite days and I will be preaching on the idea of the prayer of the Holy Spirit that clergy pray when they are consecrating the elements. We pray, “By your Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other and one in ministry to all the world.” We kneel at the same altar rail. We don’t all agree on the various issues of the day. We do all profess faith in the risen Lord. Isn’t this stronger than any of our differences? The apostle Paul seemed to think so.
I do as well!
I hope you’ll join us this Sunday as we remember who we are and whose we are and how we are connected around the planet!