But now, this is what the Lord says— the one who created you, Jacob, the one who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze…
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Beloved Epworth Community,
I write to you tonight from St. Louis where our Epworth group is attending the special general conference of the United Methodist Church. In the process of general conference, petitions are considered first in a legislative committee process then by the whole body. Yesterday, we ranked the order in which we would deal with the proposed plans. This vote ranked the Traditionalist plan first among the plans to be dealt with, an indication that it has the strongest support.
The Traditionalist plan is the plan that requires greater accountability and, as written, requires bishops and annual conferences to certify that they will enforce the rules that are punitive against LGBTQ persons and ministry. Though 40% of it was ruled unconstitutional by our Judicial Council prior to general conference, it passed today in committee. The One Church Plan, the plan that removed restrictions on ministry with LGBTQ persons, did not pass in committee.
Though plans can come back to the body tomorrow in the plenary session (this is like our congressional system of a bill going through committee then being brought to a vote on the floor), it seems clear that the United Methodist Church as a denomination will not become more open through this general conference or likely any time in the near future. It is unclear what the immediate impact of the Traditional plan will be on local churches, clergy or annual conferences.
Bishop Carcaño has asked that all here from the Western Jurisdiction (California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Montana) meet with her and other Western Jurisdiction bishops tonight. Bishop Carcaño will hold a meeting at Epworth on April 7 along with other meetings in the next months to talk about these outcomes.
We are blessed to be in a region whose identity is one of courage and inclusion as we seek to be in relationship with all who suffer and rejoice. Let us be in prayer for those who dwell in regions who rightly fear being spiritually orphaned, abandoned, and an escalation of violence.
We who are here in St. Louis from Epworth are deeply grateful for your prayer vigils which are very much felt, for our prayer beads which have sustained us, for the video of Janene Kuan and the youth’s solidarity dance sent to us yesterday, and for the knowledge that our church family is with us. One thing is abundantly clear: we stand for love, for celebrating the beauty of our diversity, and for making things right in a world of brokenness. Epworth will continue to be Epworth. We know that God loves us and that God needs us to keep being who we are, and trying to be the best versions of ourselves, for our own sakes and for the sake of the world.
With abundant love,