Dear Friends in Faith,
Greetings to you in the name of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ! Last week the top legislative body of the UMC met on the subject of human sexuality and inclusion. This world-wide gathering of delegates adopted “The Traditional Plan” –an even more restrictive set of rules than we currently have that was designed to prevent churches, clergy and annual conferences from full inclusion of people who identify as LGBTQ.
Like many my heart is aching over the decision this week by our General Conference of the United Methodist Church. I believe that the plan is a step backward for the church because it includes more punitive provisions for violations of our Book of Discipline. It sends a message that runs contrary to the welcoming love of Jesus Christ for all persons.
With that said, I know there are good people of faith who support this decision. They hold firmly to the scriptural interpretation that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. New Life UMC is a microcosm of this diverse opinion we find in our worldwide denomination. The challenge for us is how do we move forward as a church so that the chords of mutual love won’t be torn asunder.
My first response is “Be Not Afraid”, those are the words echoed by God’s messengers to humanity throughout the Bible. New Life UMC will continue to offer the gift of grace and hospitality to all persons no matter their life’s journey and who they are as a child of God. We will strive to make all people feel love and respected! In all things we will strive to be the eyes, hands, and the feet of Christ to our church, community, and world.
Secondly, let us love one another as Christ loves us, warts and all. In spite of our differences we are called to love and respect one another. I find comfort in these words from John Wesley, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.”
Let us all pray for New Life UMC and for our denomination as well. The journey ahead is long but let us be faithful to Christ’s calling, and may we find solace in his prayer for all believers:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:20-21
Wishing all of God’s richest blessings as we move forward in faith and ministry.
Pastor Mark Klaisner