2018-2019 Theme: Addressing Systemic Injustice Inside and Outside the Church UMC Judicial Council Upholds Anti-LGBTQI Plan

From UM News:

The United Methodist Church’s top court has found that while some provisions of the newly adopted Traditional Plan remain unconstitutional, the rest of the plan is valid as church law.

That was the Judicial Council’s ruling on a requested review of the Traditional Plan, which was approved during a special denomination-wide legislative session in February to strengthen enforcement of bans on “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex weddings.

In a separate ruling, legislation to provide an exit strategy for local churches wishing to leave the denomination meets three minimum requirements and thus is constitutional “when taken together with the consent of the annual conference” as specifically outlined in the Book of Discipline, the court said.

Both decisions came at the conclusion of the Judicial Council’s April 23-26 meeting.

What was found constitutional? The following is from UMNews. Read the full story here.

 

  • The first part of Petition 90045 — “Just resolutions shall state all identified harms and how they shall be addressed by the church and other parties to the complaint.”
  • Petition 90032 adds a footnote to Paragraph 304.3 to more fully define the term, “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
  • Petition 90036 prohibits bishops from consecrating bishops who are self-avowed homosexuals, even those elected by a jurisdictional or central conference. It also prohibits bishops from commissioning or ordaining those determined to be self-avowed homosexuals, even if recommended and approved by the clergy session or board of ordained ministry.
  • Petition 90042 sets mandatory penalties for pastors convicted by a trial court of performing same-sex wedding ceremonies or conducting ceremonies to celebrate homosexual unions. Those penalties are a year’s suspension without pay for the first offense and termination of conference membership and church credentials for a second offense.
  • Petition 90043 prohibits the recommendation or approval of any person who does not meet the ordination qualifications found in Paragraph 1-3. That section includes the language that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” cannot be certified as candidates for ministry, ordained or appointed.
  • Petition 90044 sets a timeline for the referral or dismissal of a complaint, and Petition 90046 adds a sentence to four disciplinary paragraphs on securing the agreement to a resolution from the complainant or complainants.
  • Petition 90047 allows the church to have a right of appeal from trial court findings “based on egregious errors of church law or administration,” but not from findings of fact.

 

The council previously found 90066 (a disaffiliation petition) unconstitutional but it has now determined that any General Conference legislation permitting such an exit must meet three minimum requirements:

 

  • Approval of the disaffiliation resolution by a two-thirds majority of the professing members of the local church present and voting at the church conference.
  • Establishment of the terms and conditions, including the effective date, of the agreement between the annual conference and the exiting local church by the conference board of trustees in accordance with applicable church law and civil laws.
  • Ratification of the disaffiliation agreement by a simple majority of the members of the annual conference present and voting.

 

Responses to General Conference 2019

 

We Desist: A Response by Progressive United Methodist Clergy in Texas to the Actions of General Conference 2019

I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie, and water will overflow your hiding place.
~ Isaiah 28:17

Statement of Confession, Commitment, and Calling: A Río Texas Laity Response to General Conference 2019

WE CONFESS to contributing to the harm done by The United Methodist Church to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people:

WE CONFESS that we have allowed our own complacency, ignorance, and/or fear to drive us to act, or fail to act, in ways that have caused harm to our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) members and neighbors.WE CONFESS that we have not made room in our pews for LGBTQ+ people to be fully themselves, nor have we sought to fill our pulpits with LGBTQ+ voices.

WE CONFESS that we have not been available for our fearfully and wonderfully made LGBTQ+ youth and children in all the ways they have needed their church to understand, accept, love, and be in ministry with them.

WE CONFESS that we have discouraged our LGBTQ+ members from pursuing ministry, expected them to conceal or falsify their identities, or encouraged them to refrain from or hide loving relationships in order to be ordained.

WE CONFESS that we have used our church sanctuaries for the weddings of our heterosexual loved ones, even as we cruelly denied the use of these same sacred, cherished spaces to other members of our own congregations.

WE CONFESS that we have not claimed the unjust exclusion of our LGBTQ+ siblings as our problem. We have ignored the link between our denomination’s spiritual violence and society’s physical violence, including the harm done to LGBTQ+ children who are kicked out of their family homes, bullied, and/or murdered based on the teachings of our church about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

WE CONFESS that we have conveniently ignored the ways in which systems of oppression, including homophobia, transphobia, racism, and misogyny, have served our own needs at the expense of others.

WE COMMIT to do all the good we can in all the ways we can and in all the places we can to end discrimination against all people:

WE COMMIT to affirming, empowering, and centering LGBTQ+ and other marginalized voices in leadership in church and in society.WE COMMIT to educating ourselves and others about the sins of homophobia, transphobia, racism, misogyny, and all systems of oppression.

WE COMMIT to holding our pastors accountable in their call to minister to all people, which includes weddings of same-sex couples.

WE COMMIT to fully supporting the pastor(s) in our home churches—emotionally, practically, and financially—if they face any punitive consequences for being in ministry with LGBTQ+ people, including officiating weddings of same-sex couples.

WE COMMIT to fully supporting our pastor(s) in our home churches—emotionally, practically, and financially—if they face any punitive consequences for coming out as LGBTQ+.

WE COMMIT to living into our baptismal vow to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

WE COMMIT to living intentionally, with hearts full of courage and love, into an expression of Methodism that is fully inclusive of people of all skin colors, ages, sizes/shapes, abilities, genders, gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, education levels, languages, socio-economic statuses, housing situations, cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, parental statuses, family configurations, employment statuses, and citizenship statuses.

WE CALL on all in the Río Texas Conference to live into the promise of God’s kin-dom here on earth by fully embracing, affirming, and including LGBTQ+ peoples in the life and ministry of our church without exception:

WE CALL on our lay siblings in Christ, our churches, and our pastors, to be inclusive and affirming of all God’s children and to consciously invite LGBTQ+ and other marginalized people to participate fully in the life and ministry of our churches, including performing same-sex weddings.WE CALL on our Staff Parish Relations Committees (SPRCs) to be inclusive and affirming of all God’s children, to include the hiring and support of LGBTQ+ and other marginalized candidates for staff and ministry positions in our churches.

WE CALL on our conference leaders to make space for the contribution and leadership of LGBTQ+ and other marginalized people at local, district, and conference levels in clergy, lay staff, volunteer, board, committee, and volunteer positions.

WE CALL on our clergy, district superintendents, and bishop to publicly acknowledge the breadth and depth of harm already done to LGBTQ+ people by the church and to publicly commit to “do no harm” to LGBTQ+ people from this moment forward.

WE CALL on our District Committees on Ordained Ministry (DCOMs) and our conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOOM) to consider qualified candidates by their gifts for ministry and not their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

WE CALL on our bishop to cease following unjust and discriminatory rules that exist only to exclude and harm LGBTQ+ people and their allies, and to dismiss any existing charges filed against conference clergy or laity for being LGBTQ+ or for being in ministry with LGBTQ+ people.

WE CALL on our Annual Conference delegates to elect open and proud LGBTQ+ delegates to General Conference 2020 in recognition of the historical vast underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ delegates at any UMC General Conference.

WE CALL for an end to the use of theological and biblical teachings to perpetuate emotional, spiritual, or physical violence against LGBTQ+ people.

We go forth in prayer and dedication, with God’s help:
Loving God, through your Word, you have made clear that we are to love our neighbors and to welcome the stranger. We ask your forgiveness for the ways in which we have fallen short. With Jesus as our model, you have shown us that love manifests in solidarity at the margins. Guide us to work as Jesus did to dismantle oppressive systems both inside and outside our church. With the Holy Spirit as our guide, help us follow your lead as we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you. We ask all this in Christ’s name. Amen.

View complete response here.

View signers here:

From Rio Texas Laity; Statement of Confession, Commitment, and Calling

Read and sign here.


Centrists, progressives to discuss church’s future

By Sam Hodges
April 17, 2019 | UMNS

The Rev. Jasmine Smothers, lead pastor of Atlanta First United Methodist Church, has been among the conveners of recent meetings by centrists and progressives to discuss the denomination’s future. Photo by Les Scarbrough, Atlanta First United Methodist Church.

A large meeting of centrist and progressive United Methodists from the U.S. is set for May 20-22 at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

The question to be asked is a big one: What should become of The United Methodist Church?

“We hope that this will be a diverse group of leaders who will help shape Methodism’s future and whatever comes out of those conversations will be our next steps and strategies moving forward,” said the Rev. Jasmine Smothers, lead pastor of Atlanta First United Methodist Church.

Specific options to be considered include breaking up the denomination or creating a financially smooth exit plan for traditionalist-minded congregations, said the Rev. Adam Hamilton, another organizer, in a blog post.

By a vote of 438 to 384, the 2019 General Conference passed the Traditional Plan, which retains church policy that the practice of homosexuality “is incompatible with Christian teaching” and strengthens bans against same-sex unions and ordination of “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.

The constitutionality of the legislation will be reviewed by the Judicial Council later this month. But the vote by General Conference, which met Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, has been greeted with dismay and resistance by many moderate and progressive United Methodists.

Some who had supported the One Church Plan, which would have given conferences and churches leeway on ordination and same-sex unions, have begun to question openly whether the denomination should or can hold together.

Smothers joined Hamilton, North Texas Conference Bishop Mike McKee, North Georgia Conference Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Discipleship Ministries top executive the Rev. Junius Dotson and the Rev. Tom Berlin in convening a series of “UMC-Next” meetings.

The first was in Dallas on March 27 and the second was in Atlanta on April 4. They each lasted six hours and involved about 70 people total, including bishops other than McKee and Haupert-Johnson.

Retired Bishop Janice Huie and the Rev. Gil Rendle, a popular consultant and author on church leadership, facilitated the meetings.

The meetings were closed. Smothers said she did not have permission to share names of those attending.

Hamilton said the groups were racially mixed and included LGBTQ voices as well as representatives of small and large churches.

“They came from different places but what united them was their opposition to the decisions made at General Conference,” he said in his post.

Getting on the list

Those wishing to nominate themselves or someone else for an invitation to the UMC-Next Gathering at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, May 20-22, can do so at this link.

Smothers and Hamilton said the Dallas and Atlanta gatherings led to the decision to have the May 20-22 meeting, expected to draw about 600 people.

Ten representatives from each of the 54 U.S. annual conferences will be invited, as well as active U.S. bishops and top executives of church agencies.


UM Forward – Constitutional but unChristian

Rev. Alex da Silva SoutoApril 26, 2019

The Judicial Council put the final nail in the coffin of the United Methodist Church (UMC).  Their ruling allowed many of the Traditional Plan’s most discriminatory and punitive measures to remain in the Book of Discipline (BoD) thereby exacerbating the assaults on LGBTQIA+ people and further empowering agents of harm. This creates an unbearable level of toxicity and unsustainability. I have serious concerns as to whether General Conference 2020 will be able to fix this vicious mess. We have not managed to clean up the BoD from all the harm inflicted unto us since 1972. How will 2020 be any different?

Progressives have been fighting for survival mechanisms and deploying creative forms of resistance for so long, but now many of our places of refuge have been taken away. We are ready to begin thriving through God’s grace, rather than remain in survival mode. That may mean living into a new expression of Methodism. It is increasingly clear that our current expression is corrupted beyond repair. To make matters worse, far-right exclusionary local churches have the upper hand even when it comes to disaffiliation. A gracious exit is available for conservative churches in progressives ACs, because “no good Christian would punish a church that wants to leave.” But progressive churches in exclusionary ACs will probably be in deep trouble, given the punitive tendencies of conferences dominated by WCA. Going forward, a number of inclusive churches will continue to discern whether they can continue to acquiesce to the now-institutionalized abuses of the UMC. These churches remain at the mercy of their Annual Conferences. I hope our church can, at the very least, acknowledge that some local churches cannot in good conscience remain complacent to the harm and abuse currently perpetuated by the UMC.

Read more:  https://um-forward.org/our-stories/2019/4/26/constitutional-but-unchristian


Encouraging Words from M Barclay

Friday at 11:31 AM

Take courage, dear friends.  Listen for the guidance of the Spirit.  Are you called to stay and resist, committed to equally escalating resistance as harm escalates?  Are you called to creative new endeavors that lead away from this destruction and into healing and restoration?  Are you called to rest, shaking the dust from your feet as you go?  Are you called to rise up or step back?  These days are not easy, or clear, or simple.  The answers are not the same for everyone, nor should they be.  The only “wrong” answer is turning away from the harm, washing y/our hands from the impacts of white supremacy and queer/transphobia, particularly in whatever ways your privilege encourages.

I too, continue to listen, to pay attention, to find meaningful connection with others who long for liberation within and beyond the church.  Taking it only day by day, as so many of us have been having to do for years under the policies that already are.

Whatever else, in the face of these destructive realities, we cannot say enough: queer love is divine, trans bodies and beings are sacred manifestations of a God always in transition, and no church is worth the loss of one more life.  I don’t know what disruption will look like in the days ahead, but I know it must be creative, it must be bold, it must be deeply relational, and driven by a radical love for all those prone to violence at the hands of the church or world.  If you’re not already, I hope you’ll consider going to or supporting the UM-Forward gathering next month, where we’ll be talking about these things, centering the lives, experiences, and wisdom of POC + Queer + Trans voices.  Learn more at https://um-forward.org/.

For clarity about what is actually going into effect, see this:https://www.facebook.com/notes/ben-anderson-david-hensley/the-currently-constitutional-additions-to-the-book-of-discipline-from-2019-gener/10156178697932452/


(From Bridget Cabrera, MFSA Executive Director)

The Judicial Council has shared its ruling on the constitutionality of the Traditional and exit plans. You can read the Judicial Council’s Ruling No. 1378 athttp://bit.ly/JCR1378 and No. 1379 at http://bit.ly/JCR1379. An explanation of both rulings is available at http://bit.ly/UMNSApr26.  For a great overview of the ruling check out UMForward’s site.

The ruling of the Judicial Council and the rules of the Book of Discipline do not overrule the teachings of Jesus. Love God, love your neighbor. Many in our church and our world are still trying to find a loophole in defining who our neighbor is and isn’t. The thing is there is no loophole. There is no neighbor, nor living creature, that is excluded. This ruling also does not change our work of resistance and seeking justice. We will continue to stand up and resist the exclusive, punitive, and mean spirited thinking and theology these pieces of legislation are rooted in.

Here are some things you can do:

Begin having conversations in your congregation about making a public statement of resistance if you have not already done so and update your church and sanctuary public use policies. Click here for some examples from the Michigan Conference.

Take a look at this list of regional responses and this list of ideas from MFSA coalition partner Reconciling Ministries Network.

Renew your membership to MFSA and connect with your regional office to get involved in what is happening in your annual conference

Become a Justice Seeking Congregation

MFSA is engaged in numerous conversations happening across our denomination concerning what will be next for our church. In all of these various gatherings and meetings, we seek to lift up and center the voices of LGBTQIA+ people, people of color, young people, and lay people. There is no way forward without centering the voices that our church has pushed to the margins over and over again.

We encourage you to participate in conversations happening across our church. Here are two opportunities:

UM Forward is sponsoring “Our Movement Forward” May 17-18 in Minneapolis, MN – A Summit to discuss the future of The United Methodist Church, centered on POC+Q+T (Person of Color, Queer, and Transgender) voices. Registration is open to all.

The Western Jurisdiction is conducting conversations and creating working groups. See their website for information on how to stay connected and participate (http://westernjurisdictionumc.org/ahomeforall)

The intentional discrimination against our LGBTQIA+ siblings is also at the forefront of our political discourse in the United States and MFSA is part of a coalition of faith organizations supporting the passing of the Equality Act.

Equality Act Sign-On: We invite all people of faith to sign their name on this letter urging Congress to support the Equality Act. Sign your name today and send it along to others to join in.

For more ways to stay engaged, check out these resources: What Religious Leaders Can Do to Support the Equality ActWhat Faith Groups Can Do to Support the Equality Act

To learn more check out this recorded webinar.

To our LGBTQIA+ siblings, know that you are loved. Surround yourself with those who love and support you in this very difficult time. Be kind to yourself and reach out for help when needed. You are a gift from God to this world and our church.


Statement by RMN on Judicial Council Decision No. 1378

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) thanks the Judicial Council for its work of deliberating the constitutionality of the Traditionalist Plan and the exit plan passed by delegates to the special session of General Conference 2019 (GC2019). In Decision 1378, the Judicial Council found the exit plan to be constitutional and found seven of the Traditionalist Plan’s 17 petitions to be unconstitutional (including four amended during GC2019).

The outcome is not surprising and does not change our plan to continue to resist the decisions of GC2019; continue to live into Biblical Obedience; show up at General Conference 2020; and remain open to new possibilities for our Church.

Notably, the Judicial Council struck down the “certification requirement” that individuals up for nomination to an Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BoOM)must certify to their bishop their willingness to comply with the entirety of the Book of Discipline. It also struck down a requirement for BoOMs to “conduct an examination to ascertain whether an individual is a practicing homosexual,” as well as certifications that respondents will not repeat an action or actions.

Petitions found constitutional include the continued prohibition of LGBTQ persons in ordained ministry; the prohibition of LGBTQ bishops; and mandatory penalties for pastors convicted by a trial court of performing same-gender wedding ceremonies or conducting ceremonies to celebrate same-gender unions.

GC2019 proved that while LGBTQ persons have been the subject of the Church’s discriminatory attention for the past 40 years, justice and inclusion for LGBTQ persons in the full life and ministry of the Church will not come by the same processes and deliberative bodies that codified exclusion. Work remains to be done across the connection through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, by the leadership of queer and trans people of color and other LGBTQ persons, and by the might of a Reconciling movement that includes over 40,000 individuals and over 1,000 Reconciling Communities.

At RMN, we are not only working on what is to come, but we are already enacting it. We will continue to both lead and be part of conversations with United Methodists, church leaders, and groups around the connection. What will come of these ashes must be a Wesleyan movement that has already resolved to include LGBTQ persons in the full life and ministry of the Church.

We call upon the Reconciling movement to practice Biblical Obedience; to continue to perform weddings with multiple officiants; to repeatedly state your dissent; to support the work of resistance by United Methodist seminaries; to continue to write open letters and visibly be in solidarity with those on the margins; and more.

For more information on how you can rise and resist, visit our statement here.

Furthermore, we stand firm in our baptismal vows:

We renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, we reject the evil powers of this world, and we call upon the Church to repent of the sin of homophobia.

We accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

We confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and put our whole trust in his grace, promising to serve him as our God in union with the Church, which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races.

Now is the time to rise and resist beside the growing number of Reconciling United Methodists and Wesleyan siblings who are working to be the Church in spite of the denomination.

 

 


From Hacking Christianity:
Rev. Jeremy Smith is the Senior Pastor at First UMC in Seattle, WA.  He is a good friend of MFSA, and publishes a website and blog addressing issues in the UMC.  He has published an up-to-date list of responses to GC2019 – see link below.

Updated List of #UMC Regional Responses to GC2019

“The passing of parts of the Traditional Plan has awoken a slumbering giant. Regions that no one considered “progressive” have amassed open letters with significant signatories, purchased local media ads, and written legislation in order to denounce the Traditional Plan.

The following is a constantly-updated list, so come back if you find something that isn’t here.

We are all indebted to Julie O’Neal, Executive Assistant to the Bishop in the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, for collecting the majority of the below letters. Thanks Julie!”

http://hackingchristianity.net/2019/03/updated-list-of-umc-regional-responses-to-gc2019.html

Note: No Austin MFSA Meeting in April

MFSA Witness Planned for Rio Texas Annual Conference

Opportunities for MFSA Witness at Annual Conference

Rio Texas MFSA will again sponsor a vendor booth in the exhibit area June 5 – 7 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi.  We are planning to offer a conversation area with chairs and small tables where friends can discuss social justice issues, most importantly the possibility of a new and inclusive UMC.  We will have resources including maps, letters, and petitions from groups across the country.

We need volunteers to help with the luncheon on June 6!  If you are attending A/C but are not a delegate, please let us know in advance and we will put you to work.

Because of our focus on the outcome of GC2019, we will not be sponsoring a book fair this year.

Evening With Paula D’Arcy

Austin Center for Grief and Loss Event

May 13th

We can’t really prepare for grief.  And yet, we will all find ourselves traveling that journey in our lives.  The only people who can wisely speak with understanding and compassion of the struggle to live with loss are those who have survived it.  On Sunday evening, May 13th at 7:00 pm one of grief’s most articulate teacher’s will be speaking in Austin at St. Louis Catholic Church.  Paula D’Arcy, retreat leader, former psychotherapist, and bestselling author, will share from her most recent book, The Winter of the Heart, in which she describes the seasons of grief and the emotions that come with loss.  Her life’s work is companioning those who experience the shock, emotional pain, and a wide range of other intense emotions that are part of grief.

When Paula was a young wife and mother she lost her husband and toddler in a violent car accident.  She understands deep sorrow, but can also help us to see what is waiting on the other side – hope, acceptance, and the essential counsel that we need not ever “get over it.” Rather she inspires us to imagine how, even in the midst of the pain of loss, we can be transformed by love and beauty into new possibilities.

The Austin Center for Grief and Loss is privileged to sponsor this event for the Austin area.  To register, please either call 512-472-7878 or click here to register online. 

One Human Race Workshops Coming Up

The One Human Race Initiative provides a safe, open, and productive environment to learn and share about race.  We’ll watch the PBS documentary “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” share in small groups, and learn about concepts from Eric Law’s The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb.

 

All workshops are free and open to the public.  Registration is required.  Lunch and snacks are provided.  Childcare will be provided on May 4th by St. Julian of Norwich.

 

Saturday, May 4th, 9:00 am – 5:30 pm

St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church

7700 Cat Hollow Dr. #204, Round Rock

 

Saturday, May 18th, 9:00 am – 5:30 pm

Bethany United Methodist Church

10010 Anderson Mill Road, Austin

 

Click here to register.