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The way forward

February 1st, 2019 by Stephen Bauman

The United Methodist Council of Bishops has called a special session of the General Conference to be held February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. (General Conference is the top policy-making body of The United Methodist Church and normally meets every 4 years. The next regularly scheduled meeting will be held in May of 2020 in Minneapolis.) The special conference this month is convening with the single purpose of evaluating the way forward for our denomination given the UMC’s current restrictive policies around human sexuality.

Over the last months, I’ve held several conversations with congregants concerning this development which has arisen due to a pronounced division across the denomination. Many clergy and congregations (including me and Christ Church) are on record as opposing the existing language in our Discipline proscribing same-sex marriage and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

Several plans will be considered as potential avenues for the evolving church. These include models for: maintaining current language with stiffened accountability measures; creating space for a united church holding differing points of view; and simply removing the proscriptive language.

At this point, there is no clarity on the outcome, but we can be certain this general conference will capture significant media exposure—I wanted you to be alert and informed. And I wanted you to know where I stand in this process. I am not a conference delegate; however, Christ Church member, Karen Prudente is, and she and I are both proponents of The Simple Plan which, as the moniker implies, simply removes the restrictive language from the Discipline allowing clergy, churches, and other jurisdictions to find their way forward without the crushing burden of one class of persons singled out for special mistreatment. Here’s a blog post describing my point of view. Members of Christ Church will discover we share a tragic relationship with the matters that are being decided.

As this month proceeds, we’ll make opportunity for further conversation and absorption of conference outcomes. But I encourage you to keep these matters in heart and mind before God as the weeks ahead unfold. In the meantime, be reassured that Christ Church will remain steadfast in its commitment to love God and neighbor as expansively as Jesus did, and that we have an excellent leader corps that’s fully capable of navigating the choppy denominational waters ahead.

I feel certain that we will find our bonds of faith strengthening as we affirm the call God has placed on our lives here at Christ Church. So glad to be sharing this adventure with you.

Stephen Bauman

Rev. Dr. Stephen P. Bauman is the Senior Minister at Christ Church.