It is a very anxious time as the scheduled 2019 General Conference is now only a few weeks away. Many rank and file United Methodist members are perhaps only now hearing what is at stake while others have had significant discussions for months. Very few congregations will have a unified view on the direction needed and the best outcome. The General Conference taking place February 23-26 has often been called “The Way Forward Conference” since it is being convened at the direction of the 2016 General Conference to help our denomination find a way forward in dealing with the impasse over sexuality. A special task force met for many months, and as a result of their work, three main plans will be presented to the delegates at the 2019 Conference.
Briefly summed up the three plans are as follows:
1. The Traditional Plan or modified traditional plan reaffirms our denominational stance and teachings on marriage and ordination. It would maintain the current status quo position of homosexuality and stress the importance of accountability and consequences for
disregarding the current Book of Discipline statements.
2. The One Church Plan redefines marriage and ordination in our denomination. This plan has been recommended by a slim majority of United Methodist bishops. Basically it would permit annual conferences, local congregations, and ministers to hold different views on homosexuality while removing any requirements or prohibitions from our current denominational stance.
3. The Connectional Conference Plan restructures our denomination based on different understanding of marriage, sexuality and
ordination. This plan would allow for differences based on culture and geography across the whole denomination, but keep everyone under the same spiritual umbrella. This plan is the most complicated and would take a number of years to fully implement so it is really
considered the dark horse of the three plans.
One other major consideration at the 2019 General Conference will be discussion of an exit provision for conferences and churches to leave the denomination if conscience will no longer let them accept whatever position the denomination declares. The truth of the matter is no one has any idea what will happen at this conference. There is a real possibility of a deadlock with nothing being decided. It has been suggested that this may be the worst outcome of all and certainly cause a splintering of the denomination. There is a possibility that either the Traditional/Modified Traditional or the One Church Plan will narrowly be approved. If that happens, don’t think the issue is settled because all the annual conferences with a majority needed for passage will then vote on whatever plan passes out of the general conference. To further muddy up the waters, the regular 2020 General Conference will not be bound by this year’s conference so the whole issue could be revisited and re-voted with a different outcome. I would suggest regardless of what happens this February we will still be looking at two to four years before the dust clears. In light of that, I would suggest three things for us at Aldersgate:
1. Be patient. Let us see how all of this unfolds. The day following the conference the sun will still come up, Jesus will still be Lord and we will be working on carrying out our ministry for the next 150 years. Granted we may have some difficult and painful decisions to make at some point down the road, but for now let us remain calm and focused on being a faithful congregation.
2. Let’s have some discussion. The time for saying nothing is past. We have people on both sides of the sexuality issue, but we can be mature enough to discuss and hear each other. Some opportunities are going to be provided both to listen and share. We will attempt to do any discussion in a spirit of Christian charity whether we agree or disagree.
3. Let’s pray like we have never prayed before. Pray for our delegates from all over the world that they arrive at the 2019 Conference safely and securely (especially the large African delegation who will be making financial sacrifices to come). Pray that the Holy Spirit will quicken hearts and minds to know God’s righteous and holy will for any decisions. Pray for our future as a denomination. I am asking for our congregation to come to the prayer room on Saturday, February 23, at 9:00 a.m. to pray for the 2019 General Conference as it begins.
I will be glad to tell you where I stand on the issues facing our denomination. As long as I have been your minister, I don’t think it is any great secret that I fall into the conservative traditional camp on such matters. I am not unbiased in the direction and position I desire to see accepted by the denomination. I also want to keep our focus on Christ so, that as a church, we continue to be faithful to the saving gospel as the main thing we offer to a broken and lost world around us.
A certain king was very rich. His power was known throughout the world. But he was most unhappy, for he desired a wife. Without a queen, the vast palace was empty. One day, while riding through the streets of a small village, he saw a beautiful peasant girl. So lovely was she that the heart of the king was won. He wanted her more than anything he had ever desired. On succeeding days, he would ride by her house on the mere hope of seeing her for a moment in passing. He wondered how he might win her love.
He thought, “I will draw up a royal decree and require her to be brought before me to become the queen of my land.” But, as he considered, he realized that she was a subject and would be forced to obey. He could never be certain that he had won her love. Then, he said to himself, “I will call on her in person. I will dress in my finest royal garb, wear my diamond rings, my silver sword, my shiny black boots, and my most colorful tunic. I will overwhelm her and sweep her off her feet to become my bride.” But, as he pondered the idea, he knew that he would always wonder whether she had married him for the riches and power he could give her.
Then, he decided to dress as a peasant drive to the town, and have his carriage let him off. In disguise, he would approach her house. But,
somehow the dishonesty of this plan did not appeal to him. At last, he knew what he must do. He would shed his royal robes! He would go to the village and become one of the peasants. He would work and suffer with them. He would actually become a peasant. This he did. And by identifying with his subjects in this sacrificial way, he won the heart of his wife.
In like manner, our Creator also considered how He might win the hearts of humankind. And then at just the right time, God in Christ robed Himself in human flesh and became one of us, taking upon Himself the very form of mortal man to dwell among us (John 1:14). Then, in the fullest demonstration of His great love for us, He died on the cross for our sins, so that we might be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). Has His love won YOUR heart?
We are at the start of a new year and each twenty four hour period I can plan on what type of day I am going to have. Today I can feel sad that I don’t have more money, OR…I can be glad that my finances encourage me to plan my purchases wisely and guide me away from waste. Today I can grumble about my health, OR…I can rejoice that I am alive. Today I can lament over all that my parents didn’t give me when I was growing up, OR…I can feel grateful that they allowed me to be born. Today I can cry because roses have thorns, OR…I can celebrate that thorns have roses. Today I can mourn my lack of friends, OR…I can excitedly embark upon a quest to discover new relationships. Today I can whine because I have to go to work, OR… I can shout for joy because I have a job to go to. Today I can complain because I have to go to school, OR…Eagerly open my mind and fill it with new tidbits of knowledge. Today I can murmur dejectedly because I have to do housework, OR…I can feel honored because the Lord has provided shelter for my mind, body, and soul. Today stretches ahead of me, waiting to be shaped. And here I am, the sculptor who gets to do the shaping. What today will be like is up to me in so many ways. It depends on my perspective as a person of faith. I get to choose what kind of day I will have! Have a GREAT DAY friends unless maybe you have other plans.
Room in the Inn is an emergency shelter program that originated in Nashville, TN in the 1980’s and was brought to Jackson by Area Relief Ministries in 2007. ARM partners with local churches to feed and shelter homeless men in Jackson during the bitter cold winter months, November 1 – April 30, offering hospitality, fellowship, a warm meal, and a soft bed for the homeless men in our community.
Dr. Ernest Mellor wrote how he and his wife, “Sat charmed at an outdoor performance by young Suzuki violin students. After the concert, an instructor spoke briefly on how children as young as two, three and four years old are taught to play violin. The first thing the children learn, he said, is a proper stance. And the second thing the children learn—even before they pick up the violin—is how to take a bow. ‘If the children just play the violin and stop, people may forget to show their appreciation,’ the instructor said. ‘But when the children bow, the audience invariably applauds. And applause is the best motivator we’ve found to make children feel good about performing and want to do it well.’
“Adults love applause too. Being affirmed makes us feel wonderful. To rekindle or keep the flame of love glowing in your marriage, try showing and expressing your appreciation for your mate. Put some applause in your marriage and watch love grow.”
Meaningful applause—whether by hand clapping or with our words—is one the most effective and easiest ways to encourage one another. The word “encourage” comes from “en” meaning in, and “courage.” It means to put courage into another—and that’s something every one of us can do—so let’s do it often from a sincere heart. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”