A guest post from Pastor Becky Brown...
As a continuation of Pastor Sandy’s previous pastoral post regarding General Conference, I thought it fitting that I should report on the proceedings of the global United Methodist gathering that concluded on May 20, 2016. Click here https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Iu1M89ho0y8 for a short wrap up video to see snapshots of what this gathering looks like. General Conference (GC) was filled with legislative committee meetings, celebrations, dynamic and inspirational worship, prayer, and plenary sessions filled with debate on important legislation changes to our Book of Discipline. There were also demonstrations by the Black Lives Matter movement, and many from LGBTQ supporters who were begging for change in our denominational statements where language is seen as discriminatory. All things considered, the outcome of this General Conference regarding the debate on human sexuality issues, was not how anyone had expected. Halfway through GC, many members of the body were sensing that the actions taken and the spirit of conversations of delegates regarding human sexuality were gridlocked. They feared upon the conclusion of this meeting, the body would still remain divided and wounded. The fear was that unity would be broken and the global church would split. Prior to any debate on the floor regarding major pieces of legislation on human sexuality and inclusion, key delegates pleaded with the council of bishops for their leadership. The request was made for the bishops to offer a way forward. This type of request doesn’t typically come from the gathered church at GC. After a night of prayer and candid conversation, the bishops recommended the conference delay debate on human sexuality at this meeting, establish a commission to study all legislation in the Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality, and then possibly host a called General Conference in 2-3 years to debate recommendations from this commission. The bishops’ statement said, “We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead The United Methodist Church in a ‘pause for prayer’ — to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.” The gathered body voted to accept the bishops’ recommendation and subsequently tabled all legislation debates regarding human sexuality. As you can imagine, the response by delegates and others watching the GC meeting closely were mixed. Many are outraged because they were elected delegates to vote for change or vote for consistency in our Book of Discipline. After all, numerous faithful United Methodists across the globe submitted petitions, discussed and voted on such petitions, and have been praying for their desired and believed spirit filled outcome for the way forward for the Church. However the call to maintain unity was heard loud and clear, and many are relieved the results of the proceedings at GC did not result in a devastating splintering off of the church that prides itself on being united. In addition, the GC celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Methodist Church granting full clergy rights to women, the 200th anniversary of Francis Asbury’s death, the 250th anniversary of John Street Church in New York City, the 30th anniversary of DISCIPLE Bible Study, the upcoming 25th anniversary of Africa University, and United Methodist Women which will soon celebrate 150 years. The GC also voted to assemble a 15 member Hymnal Revision Committee who will put together the first new hymnal for the church since 1989. This new version will be Internet-cloud based and print-on-demand. Please accept this meager offering of a summary of 10 days of General Conference proceedings by myself, one who has never been a delegate or even witnessed the conference in person. If you would like more detailed information regarding the Council of Bishops’ recommendation letter, or other details about GC, please feel free to contact me and I will gladly point you a helpful resource. I look forward to seeing you on Sunday as I preach on Psalm 46, a favorite for many. And remember, we are privileged to host The Girls’ Choir of Wilmington, a 40 member treble chorus in concert at 10am. They will also lead worship at 11am in the sanctuary.
See you then,
Pastor Becky Brown