Congregations should be able to leave the United Methodist Church now instead of waiting for next year’s General Conference, a group of members told bishops in a letter.
The denomination has been embroiled in a divisive debate over its biblically-based stance that says homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching on marriage and clergy. Many churches expect to leave after the denomination approves a dismissal process at the 2022 General Conference.
An open letter posted signed by several pastors, seminary professors and other church leaders expressed concern about the continued postponing of General Conference, which originally was supposed to happen in May 2020. It was posted to the website acalltograce.com.
The letter was made public on Tuesday, which was the same day that the UMC Council of Bishops began their multiday online meeting, according to UM News.
“As the writer of Ecclesiastes notes, ‘For everything there is a season,’ and the season for waiting on General Conference legislative solutions as the only way forward has passed,” the letter said. “We recognize that continued delay in making decisions about the future of the United Methodist Church hurts our mission and is especially harmful to our central conference and LGBTQIA+ siblings who are caught up in this conflict.”
The letter called on church leaders to, among other things, create “a pastoral response to the anxiety generated by having to delay decisions that impact peoples’ lives and ministries,” “to develop resources to assist local churches in discerning their future” and to help allow congregations that want to leave the UMC to do so immediately
Next August’s Methodist General Conference will tackle proposals aimed at creating a gracious separation for congregations that want to adhere to the biblical definition of marriage and sexuality. Although the UMC takes a theologically conservative position on LGBT issues, many in church leadership roles refuse to enforce the denomination’s rules, among them a ban on the ordination of noncelibate homosexuals.
Many expect hundreds if not thousands of congregations to leave the UMC and form a biblically sound Methodist church after legislation is approved at General Conference. It would allow for the funding of this new denomination and an easier process for congregations to leave.
While the UMC takes a theologically sound position on LGBT issues, many in Church leadership roles refuse to enforce the denomination’s rules, including a ban on the ordination of sexually active homosexuals.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice