Update on Recent Annual Conference Session
Annual Conference is a time when clergy and lay members from each of the 600 plus United Methodist congregations in our region gather for worship and business. This was the first time our Annual Conference was in session since the Special General Conference took place in February when legislation was adopted that maintains the policy that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and reinforced bans on same-gender weddings and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexual clergy.”
The decisions made at the Special Session of the General Conference have been a source of pain and disappointment for many while others feel the decisions vindicate their own deeply held beliefs. There are deep divisions among us.
At each annual session, the clergy meets together in what is called “Executive Session.” This year the session voted on the recommendation of two Deacon and nine Elders candidates for commissioning and one Deacon and eleven Elders candidates for ordination. All of the candidates were thoroughly examined and prayed over before being recommended to the Executive Session.
The Executive Session voted to approve all of the candidates presented to them by the Board of Ordained Ministry, including T.C. Morrow and Joey Heath-Mason who are married to persons of the same gender. This represents a conflict with some of the language in the current Book of Discipline adopted in 2016 and even more conflicts with the language that will go into effect with the updated Book of Discipline on January 1, 2020. These actions were challenged and will be reviewed further by the Judicial Council. However, it was the clear will of the executive session and the bishop to proceed.
On the first morning of the full session, Bishop LaTrelle Easterling led the entire conference in a process of listening to persons representing various responses to the legislation that was passed last February as well as the ways in which each saw reasons for hope for the United Methodist Church. This was a constructive model for how we might be in conversation with one another, even when there are stark differences among us.
My hope is that CUMC would find ways to foster such listening and conversation here within our congregation also. I am prayerfully considering how we might do this. Whether a split may happen in the denomination, we are all called to follow the way of love and discipleship. That’s what Jesus calls us to do, even when it is not easy or clear how to do so.
For more information about the conference and to view the Bishop’s sermon at the ordination service, see https://www.bwcumc.org/
Grace and peace,