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Silhouette of Cross Against Sky

A Message from pastor Matt

A message from pastor matt
May 2024
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General Conference Special Message

BUMC Family and Friends,

 

Many of you may have heard that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church recently convened in Charlotte, N.C. and made a number of significant changes. If you were not aware, the General Conference is the top governing body of the world-wide United Methodist Church and convenes every four years. There is a link at the bottom of this email that will take you to a website that lists the actions taken by the General Conference Please take a look at all the work the delegates accomplished.

 

I want to specifically highlight the changes made regarding human sexuality. The following excerpt was copied directly from the webpage below, but I added the emphasis.

 

The General Conference voted by overwhelming majorities to remove from the United Methodist Book of Discipline discriminatory language and bans related to ministry by, with and for “self-avowed practicing” gay and lesbian people. Actions included:

•Removal of the language that the “practice of homosexuality … is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

•Removal of the ban on the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy.

•Removal of language that made the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy and the performance of same-sex weddings chargeable offenses.

•Removal of mandatory minimum penalties for clergy holding same-sex weddings.

•Removal of a prohibition against using United Methodist funds to support groups, activities and causes that promote the acceptance of homosexuality.

•Removal of the requirement that the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, enforce the funding ban. Instead, the provision says the agency should ensure that church funds do not go to anything that rejects LGBTQ persons or limits the response to the HIV epidemic.

•Allowance for all clergy in good standing to be appointed across annual conference lines when their bishop can’t locate an appointment in their conference.

 

As they have traditionally done, conference bishops and their cabinets will consult with clergy and staff-parish relations committees to find the best appointments for both the local church and the pastor.

 

These changes bring the Book of Discipline back to a neutral place where one group is not singled out for discrimination. It holds space for differing opinions within The United Methodist Church by avoiding broad mandates.

 

I understand that these changes may seem very controversial to some people, while others will celebrate them. We are a congregation with a wide range of opinions and beliefs and have always known that there are theological, political, and cultural issues on which we disagree. But, we have never let that fact divide us. I encourage all of you to remain united in Christ as we continue to reach out to the world to be God’s hands, feet, and voice.

 

The reality is that this change will have little direct impact on our congregation. If there were any discussions about a change of pastor for this church, the Leadership Board (serving as Staff Parish Relations) would consult with the District Superintendent to ensure that any new pastor would be a good fit for this congregation. These changes are not going to force anything on any church. The intent is to put all pastors on equal footing and to allow space for differing opinions within the United Methodist Church.

 

That having been said, I think that now is a good time to share my personal views on this subject. I understand that some of you will disagree with me and that is okay. We are a stronger congregation if we can openly disagree in a loving, Christian way and are able to respectfully share our varying viewpoints.

 

I believe that every person is created by God, in God’s image, and that God does not make mistakes. In God’s eyes, every person is valuable and important. I have known many people in my life who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and every one of them who talked to me about their sexuality assured me that they were born the way that they are, including one of my own children. I believe that if they are born that way, then that was God’s intention. Living as the person they are created by God to be cannot be sinful in and of itself.

 

You may cite one of a handful if bible verses to me that indicates otherwise. (For a detailed discussion of how I interpret scripture please take a look at my April 21, 2024 sermon on the church YouTube channel or Facebook page.) In a nutshell, I believe that scripture is inspired by God, but very much written down by human beings. Otherwise, there would not be so many differing versions of the Bible. Because we humans are imperfect, some of the cultural biases and beliefs of the writers found their way into scripture. That is why references to slavery, verses that would subjugate women to men, and many other objectionable topics can be found in the Bible.

 

Rather, I prefer to read scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ, his actions, and his direct teaching. If an interpretation of a certain Bible verse hurts some person, then I really ought to dig a little deeper. I might ask myself whether my interpretation shows love for God and love and concern for the other person? If the answer to either one of those questions is no, then I need to really think about the Bible verse under consideration. All of this together, leads me to the conclusion that loving, committed, respectful, relationships—including those of the LGBTQ+ community—are a God-given gift and not sinful.

 

I understand that there may be people out there who disagree with me. Once again, there is nothing wrong with that. I intend to work to keep BUMC a church where all opinions are respected and all people are welcome.

 

Blessings,Pastor Matt

 

Legislative Recap: General Conference 2020 (resourceumc.org)

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