The Spirit of St. Louis

February 20, 2019

     For fifty years the United Methodist Church has been in prayerful debate, discussion and research over its position on sexual ethics. After decades in this journey, I can testify that every angle has been thoroughly explored and there isn’t anything new to say. The best, brightest leaders of our denomination have diligently ruled on these matters at every General Conference since 1972. The results have always been the same: we support the Gospel teaching on marriage and ethics.

     The final leg of this journey began in 2016 with the formation of the Commission on a Way Forward. The commission was charged to come up with proposals to resolve the conflict and provide for unity. They came up with 3 proposals and bring them to a Special session of the General Conference to be held this weekend in St. Louis. The 864 delegates represent every annual conference from all over the world, including Michigan. The decisions made in St. Louis will bring radical change.

     My instincts tell me that we will formally separate into two different denominations, one traditional and one liberal. The uncertainty is in how this will be accomplished. Change is coming. I find myself conflicted within. Part of me mourns over the likely loss of familiar and beloved ministries, programs and denominational institutions. Another part of me is enthusiastic about the chance to re-structure major parts of a failing institution—at least in its American base. Yet a third part of me anticipates resolution after years of unproductive and increasingly unhinged debate. Like the movie “Ground Hog’s Day”, our denomination has been stuck repeating the same scene. It will be a relief to step out of that cycle. What comes next is in God’s hands and I believe he will provide renewal and a way forward for the people called Methodist. I am immensely hopeful that when the dust settles, the Methodist movement will be invigorated and fruitful once again. My heart feels the Holy Spirit is at work in this gritty conflict. It’s my conviction the Spirit will not fail to revive his church.

     I’ve often been asked what my position is. I fully support the existing United Methodist statements on marriage and ethics. I will continue to serve the body that remains in continuity with current United Methodist beliefs. I’m hoping the Traditional plan proposed by the Commission on the Way Forward will be endorsed. It is the favorite among the delegates. Yet whatever happens, I am trusting in God. He owns the church. I trust he will provide for our future mission. I intend to be part of God’s mission!

     Highland United Methodist Church will continue its Christian witness in this region. We are not going to stop preaching, teaching, worshiping and serving in Christ’s name. All of our ministries will continue. As your pastor I will make every effort with you to ensure that we continue to connect, grow and serve! What will change is the nature of denomination affiliation as well as the nature of financial relationships to state, national and global Christian ministries.

     Our Administrative Council has set aside Tuesday, March 5 at 7 PM for a special meeting to hear a report on the Special General Conference, to discuss its implications, and to pray together for God’s guidance. The meeting is open and I encourage everyone to attend. This will be a time for information, questions and discussion but no decision making since we cannot foresee what will be before us.

     I intend to fast and pray for General Conference. May God sustain the delegates in the stress and strain. May God renew the Methodist movement. May God stir our hearts to repent and return to his will and to the authority of the Gospel.  He will not fail to make the path straight that leads out of the desert!

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