March 2019: General Conference

Bonnie WohllebenPastor's Blog

Rev. Dr. Brian Bosworth

As I write this, I am aware that our United Methodist General Conference is underway in St. Louis, Missouri. The meeting was called as a special session (we normally have general Conference once every four years and 2020 is our next regular General Conference) to address issues around human sexuality. The United Methodist Church has been debating this issue and the Church’s official understanding and therefore Church polity for over 40 years. In the last few General Conferences, the issue and what the Church does or does not do as we move forward has often caused some very emotional and heartfelt responses from a broad spectrum of our United Methodist Church members. The discussions, debates, posturing, and attempts to make decisions at earlier General Conferences have often sidetracked, derailed, or caused less energy and attention to be afforded other very important matters that also needed General Conference attention (remember it only convenes every 4 years normally). Therefore, this special session has been convened to try to gain greater clarity on the issue for the denomination and allow us as United Methodists to give attention, energy, and resources to other matters which are also important at future sessions of General Conference.

In a global Church such as ours, there is a tremendous amount of diversity. Some have called the United Methodist Church a “big tent church” where many races, cultures, ethnicities, genders, thoughts, understandings, political positions, and theological backgrounds (to name a few of our differences) can come together to share the love of God and make a difference in the world as we make disciples of Jesus Christ. Our own local church, Decatur FUMC, is diverse in a number of ways. We are a beautiful part of what God is doing in the world through the universal church.

In a Church like the United Methodist Church, with our rich diversity and connectional nature, there comes a time, such as now, when decisions are made that may affect our denomination. It also means that in such situations there will be people who are grateful and proud at the decisions made at General Conference. There will also be others who are hurt and saddened by the decision. There may be others who have opinions and beliefs and no matter what the decision (whether agreeing or disagreeing with the decision) are ready for us to focus on sharing the love of God with people so that lives are transformed. No matter the decision or our feelings, there will be hurt and healing that are needed. It’s our Christian response to bind the wounds of the injured and care for them as the Good Samaritan did for the injured traveler (Luke 10: 25-37).

Our founder of Methodism, John Wesley, once said, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.” I appreciate Mr. Wesley’s direction on diversity and our ability to love alike even when opinions differ. I cannot help but think that Wesley was sharing a part of what he understood the Apostle Paul to be referring to as the members of the church understanding themselves to all be part of one body with Christ as the head. The one body has many very different members and all depend on the other members to make it the body that Jesus is Lord over (1 Corinthians 12: 12-31).

I am also reminded that Paul teaches, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8: 28) As we embrace the decision of our General Conference, we can be assured that good can come from the very real and challenging work being done in St. Louis. I do not believe Paul is implying that everything that happens that we think is good is God’s handiwork, but I believe Paul is saying that we can and should find good in everything that happens, regardless of whether we like what happened or do not. This is the hope and joy that Christians bring to the world. Let’s be a part of bringing good from whatever the decision is at General Conference. They will know we are Christians by our LOVE!

See You in Worship!