“the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on [the Lord]. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Romans 9:31
My faith has been nurtured primarily in the Methodist Church. Though I was baptized as an infant in a Congregational Church because of my family’s move to a new community when I was one year old, I grew up in the Methodist Church where I was confirmed in the Christian faith as a pre-teen. In 1968 the Methodist denomination merged with the Evangelical United Brethren to form the United Methodist Church (UMC). United Methodists hold much in common with all other Christian denominations, but as inheritors of John Wesley’s 18th century Methodist movement there are some ways that we are distinctive. One is that though we hold scripture as foundational to our theology, we also embrace the use of tradition, reason and experience to inform our understanding of God. Another distinctive part of our heritage is that the first use of the phrase “agree to disagree” is credited to John Wesley when he said in a sermon, “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature. . . in these, we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…” Over the course of my life I have not agreed with everything a fellow Christian has espoused, but within the confines of the UMC I have been able to “agree to disagree” and I have grown in my understanding of God’s all inclusive love. A love that extends to persons I agree with and those I disagree with.
Sadly, the recent 2019 General Conference of the global United Methodist Church has ruled that an essential of the UMC must exclude persons I have come to know and affirm as gifted, grace filled pastors who happen to have been born with a sexual orientation different than heterosexual. I can accept that not all persons believe as I do about full inclusion of homosexuals in the church, but I cannot accept harsh and punitive ways of excluding them. The United Methodist Church I have known is one that accepts a wide variety of theological and even political persuasions – remember George W. Bush and Hilary Clinton are both United Methodists. I celebrate our “big tent” church that, though it is sometimes challenging, can hold together progressives, centrists and traditionalists.
Some of you reading this letter have not been following the deliberations and decision of the February General Conference, some have seen headlines about it and some of you have followed it closely. I have heard from some of you that you are deeply troubled by the decisions made by over 800 voting delegates with only a 54 vote margin. I imagine that others of you may agree with the decisions made in St. Louis. Whether you agree or disagree you may be wondering, “What does this mean for Eureka First UMC?” At the present time, it will have little impact except for being a topic of conversation. We will keep being a church that welcomes all, a church that contains persons with a variety of theological perspectives and understandings, a church committed to mission and outreach here and beyond our community. The leadership team and the Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church (WJUMC) have issued clear statements that in the west we will continue to be inclusive of all persons. In the coming weeks the leadership of the WJUMC will be meeting to discern the best way forward as followers of Jesus the Christ who told us to love ALL.
Please feel free to contact me for further information or to discuss what this all means to you.