All Is Well and All Shall Be Well
I am leaving Friday, February 22, for St. Louis, Missouri, where I will attend and observe a called General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The General Conference can be defined as “where the buck stops” in terms of decision making for the United Methodist Church. 862 delegates (half clergy and half laity) from all over the world will represent their own conferences for these 3 days of prayerful deliberation. This conference has been called to navigate the thorny issue of deep theological disagreement and division in the denomination.
What is the issue? A 60%-65% majority of Methodists in America believe that the LGBTQ community should be welcomed openly as members, be able to pastor churches (if they are called by God), be able to serve as leaders in the church and be able to be married in Methodist Churches by Methodist clergy. In short, there should be no impediments or restrictions. All means all. Others in our denomination strongly disagree with that truth.
So, what is the problem? Centenary identifies with the majority of Methodists in America. However, the United Methodist Church is global. 40% of the delegates to General Conference are from African nations, many of which have cultures that are dominantly hostile to the LGBTQ community. Death is the verdict for LGBTQ persons in many places in Africa. So, a large block of the votes from Africa coupled with a minority of votes in the United States create a General Conference majority that want our church law to tilt toward exclusion for LGBTQ persons. This impasse is a major problem.
What is at stake? Our identity. Who are we? What is God’s call? For Centenary and a majority of UMC churches all over the nation, “All means all”. Traditionalists, on the other hand, believe that to be faithful to God the UMC must take strong stands against issues of inclusion and acceptance. Among leaders in the church (traditional, moderate, and progressive), it is nearly a universal opinion that the status quo in the UMC is untenable and unsustainable.
What are we to do? Pray. Relax. Be non-anxious. In the words of Jesus, “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1) Regardless of what happens in St. Louis, Centenary looks forward to being able to fully embrace its long-held core values. The bottom line is that “All shall be well. All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich, 1389)
Where can you learn more? First, I hope you will attend an information and discussion forum that I will be leading at Centenary on Sunday, March 3rd, after our morning worship service. (Nursery provided.) Second, if you want to know more before then watch the 12-minute video which gives an overview of the primary reports before the General Conference by clicking on this link. https://www.sgaumc.org/resourcesvideo
All is well and all shall be well… Tim Bagwell