Grace and peace to you in this season of Eastertide.
As you know, the Judicial Council recently ruled on legislation passed at General Conference 2019. While nearly half of the Traditional Plan remains unconstitutional, some provisions were found to be valid as church law and will take effect in January 2020. (Read this set of FAQs for more information about what passed and what it means.)
For many, this ruling ripped open the deep wounds sustained immediately after General Conference in February. It has re-awakened the hurt experienced by those in the LGBTQIA+ community. My heart is heavy as I acknowledge and lament this harm. Others welcomed the affirmation of traditional marriage and current language related to human sexuality. These differing responses reflect the depth of our division as a denomination.
Each of us has our own convictions about human sexuality based on scripture, tradition, reason, and experience—and in Minnesota, we have created space for each other’s beliefs and different ways of doing ministry that are relevant for our unique contexts. We don’t agree on everything, but we have lived as a covenant community under the big tent of United Methodism, rooted in a Wesleyan understanding of the gospel and the “catholic spirit,” loving and supporting each other and pursuing our shared mission of making disciples. Grace pervades our understanding of Christian faith and life. The actions of General Conference and the Judicial Council rulings do not change who we are as the Minnesota Annual Conference or who we are in Christ.
As I’ve said before, I supported the One Church Plan that was defeated at General Conference because it aligns with my dream of a unified global church that honors contextual differences and freely, joyfully provides space for one another’s ministries and evangelistic efforts just as we have sought to do in this annual conference. I join with many who are deeply disappointed that the Traditional Plan does not afford this space that has become sacred to us in Minnesota.
Although none of us knows exactly what is to come, I can tell you this:
• We will devote a day of our upcoming annual conference session to consider our identity as an annual conference, and seek clarity about how God is calling us to be the church and therefore what is next. There will be conversations around the state for clergy and lay members of annual conference in the month leading up to annual conference so they can be fully informed and prepared for the conversation and decisions to be made in June.
• There are movements underway—here in Minnesota and across the country—to create new expressions of United Methodism, and it seems likely that the denomination will change significantly in the next few years. I am paying close attention to these efforts and commit to staying in close conversation with those involved so that I can prepare our annual conference, our congregations, and our leaders for whatever may be next. The 2020 General Conference will be in Minneapolis, and there is certain to be legislation to help clarify and enable one or more paths forward. Potential scenarios that I am aware of include:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church