Dear church family,
It seems like I am writing about some rather heavy topics these days as your pastor. I look forward to some more light-hearted conversation with you in the future, but the calendar dictates that today I address the topic of human sexuality.
As our denomination is seeking a way forward at a special called General Conference session February 23- 26 in St. Louis, we are praying for God’s will to be done. To inform Schweitzer’s membership of what is occurring and of our pastoral response, copies of the book, Generous Spirit Strong Convictions, were distributed and town hall meetings conducted. While these gatherings have certainly been intense and painful at times, I am grateful for the free exchange of thoughts from various perspectives.
I am writing to communicate how we are operating as a pastoral team in leading Schweitzer and what we ask of all members of Schweitzer’s family as we move forward:
- Persons do not have to agree where we are as a pastoral staff to hold leadership positions in the church. Not everyone on our board or our church staff is in agreement on these matters. We have had open discussions about this. There is no litmus test regarding someone’s positions on human sexuality to serve in leadership.
- We are prohibiting those in leadership using their positions to teach or advocate for that which is contrary to how the appointed pastors are leading and operating related to human sexuality. However, individuals can have the opposite views of the pastors, and fully participate in every aspect of the church.
- We wish to be clear that as a pastoral staff, we do not intend to lead Schweitzer to accept the redefining of marriage, or endorse changing ordination requirements, or the historic lifestyle standards of celibacy in singleness and fidelity in marriage.
- We don’t always get to choose our agendas but sometimes agendas choose us. We didn’t create the political climate in the United Methodist Church or set the timeline of the special called General Conference. Yet, this reality will soon require clergy to identify where they are in these positions. Regarding any actions taken at the conference next month, I wanted to bring clarity to how we are leading Schweitzer in preparing for any ramifications which may occur in the future.
As I am preaching on the text this Sunday of Jesus’ words to love our enemies, and to return blessings for those who curse us, the Jesus I know calls us to love those who are in a very different place in these matters. I am challenged and instructed by the words of David Watson, professor and dean at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio: And in the midst of all this deep disagreement, the Bible forces me to remember that the people I disagree with, people that I may get mad at, are so important to God that Christ died for them. And in those times when I’ve tried to hurt the people who hurt me, when I’ve returned evil for evil, when I haven’t shown meekness, but succumbed to pride or anger—Scripture calls me to confess my sin and repent.
I really don’t know what the future holds for the United Methodist denomination. I do believe that Schweitzer will continue as a vital, strong congregation and a loving church family. I commit to you a pastoral team which will continue to include all persons in the family under the guidance of scripture and the Holy Spirit.
Pivoting with you, I do hope you can join us this Saturday, February 2, 10AM-12PM, for the Change Over Zone as Jim Ozier leads us in this time of pastoral transition. It should be fun, really! I hope to see you Saturday and Sunday!