THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT REGARDING THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH’S GENERAL CONFERENCE DECISION WAS SHARED BY DR. FOWLER IN ALL WORSHIP SERVICES ON MARCH 2ND & 3RD.
As many of you know, the special General Conference of the UMC met last week and passed “the Traditional Plan” in regards to two issues in our worldwide denomination – same gender weddings and the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. This means that current prohibitions regarding these activities will remain in place. The conference was deeply divided on this matter, as is our denomination.
These decisions have been sent to the Judicial Council, the Supreme Court of the UMC, who will either ratify or decline some or all of this legislation.
These topics have for a long time been divisive in our society and in the Church. Good Christian people and pastors in local churches have read scripture, prayed, talked, listened and discerned, and come up with opposite beliefs. The General Conference decisions have brought these differences to a strong and loud place. You have perhaps been a part of discussions with family or friends, or read print or internet articles, or posts on blogs. Last week I sent a congregational letter, the goal of which was to help us in our conversation about these very personal topics.
One point of that conversation is how we will move forward in the face of great differences, and how we will listen to one another and respect one another when we strongly disagree.
Especially hurt by the decision of the General Conference were our gay, lesbian and transgender brothers and sisters, and their family and friends. I want them to know that they are welcomed and accepted by me and our congregation. I want them to know that that are included in our ministry and mission, and that there is a place for them in our fellowship, just the same as there is a place for all. I want them to be sure to know that I, and we, know they are persons of sacred worth, as we all are. I want them to know that they are loved by God, through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Trinity has a long history of being a welcoming congregation. While surely not perfect, we have long heard that most who come among us feel welcomed and valued. Radical hospitality has been one of our mantras in recent years. For a long time we have followed Jesus together with our various differences…as we have people from over 30 different countries, of various skin colors, languages, cultures, politics, economic status, and educational attainment. Conservatives and liberals have long worked and worshipped together for God’s kingdom at Trinity.
We have also long had gay, lesbian and transgender people with us, worshipping, singing and praying with us, serving in mission and ministry with us, breaking bread, laughing and crying with us, and serving on our church lay staff with us. Yes, there has been and will be room for all at Trinity church.
Now, in a new way we must learn how to love one another in the face of strongly held differences of opinions. I and the pastors on the church staff are ready to listen to you, talk with you and pray with you. Just ask. I personally will appreciate hearing from you, and will make as much time as needed to listen to you.
Moving forward, I commit to you to be the pastor to the whole church and all its people, even as I ask your forgiveness in advance for my failures and weaknesses in seeking to do so.
Moving forward, we will continue to prayerfully respond to God’s calling in seeking to fulfill the vision God has put before us for ministry. Worship will continue, student ministry will continue, KidVenture will continue, small groups will continue, mission trips will continue, music ministry will continue, pastoral care will continue, lay visitation will continue. All of our ministries will continue, and all people are lovingly welcome to participate.
We will continue to prayerfully seek to do God’s will and work.
And I urgently hope that you will also prayerfully continue to grow in your ability to listen to and understand people who may be different from you in any way.
The Church is of God, and will be preserved to the end of time.
In our time, may we work prayerfully and faithfully to help the Church become what God wants it to be.