Some of you have asked, and others wondered, about the launch of the Global Methodist Church on May 1 of this year. What is it, and what does it mean for our own congregation? The first question is a bit lengthy and layered. The second, I believe, is much simpler.
The Global Methodist Church grew out of our denomination’s debate around issues of human sexuality, and particularly our welcome and inclusion of members of the LGBTQ community. This debate has been going on since about 1972, when the United Methodist Church first adopted language that excluded LGBTQ persons from full participation in the church. Since that time many United Methodists have become increasingly uncomfortable with that stance.
Some have worked to change our official policies. Others have resisted them at the local level. Of course we have always had lesbian and gay members of our church family, as we have in our own families. The same is true of our clergy.
Many had hoped to resolve our differences at the meeting of the General Conference that was originally scheduled to be held in Minneapolis in May 2020. But the pandemic prevented the gathering of delegates and observers who would have come from all over the globe. That meeting was postponed a couple of times and is now scheduled for 2024. Both progressive and conservative United Methodists have been frustrated by the decision and feel as if we are somehow stuck till then (if not longer).
Here in California and across the West, our bishops and other leaders are largely supportive of full inclusion. That is true in other regions as well, both here in the U.S. and across the globe. Of course other United Methodists disagree with that stance. They believe that they cannot remain part of a church which welcomes and includes persons without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. So they have chosen a new name and begun a new denomination.
But it is far from clear what that will mean, and when it will actually exist. There are provisions for congregations to leave the UMC, but it is a complicated and expensive proposition. It may be that there will be a few churches who make that move in the coming months. But likely it will take a good deal longer. And I doubt whether many in our California-Pacific Annual Conference will do so.
The position of your pastors is one of support for welcome and full inclusion. But I am willing, and even grateful, to be part of a church in which people disagree even over such important matters. I know that my own mind and heart have been changed, on this and other subjects, by open and honest conversation with people who see things differently from me. I hope that will continue to be the case.
So what does the creation of the Global Methodist Church mean for RHUMC? I suspect, (and I hope) very little. I do not expect us to change our open and welcoming posture, our focus on mission in our community, our care for each other, our reverence for scripture, our gratitude for God’s saving love, the centrality of worship, our desire to grow in grace.
If you have questions, please know that April, Kristin and I are always glad to engage with you around matters close to your mind and heart. We look forward to doing so.
Grace and peace,