Today, let’s talk about the United Methodist Church.
I spent most of this week in Florida at a meeting of the Wesley Covenant Association (WCA). The WCA is an organization that connects United Methodist clergy, churches, and laity towards a common vision and understanding of what the Wesleyan/Methodist movement could look like today. It is made up of clergy, laity and churches from across the world. (Schweitzer is not a member of the WCA.)
As you remember, last February, the United Methodist Church hosted the specially-called General Conference to decide on long-standing disagreements about human sexuality. Many in the church wanted the denomination to change it’s stance on same-sex marriage and ordination of practicing gay and lesbian people. Instead, the United Methodist Church reaffirmed our long standing position that marriage is between one man and one woman.
The eight months since General Conference have been a mess for the United Methodist Church. Some clergy, churches, bishops, and even entire Annual Conferences have voiced their disapproval and have embraced open disobedience of the decision the church made. Some churches have stopped paying apportionments, which is the money every United Methodist Church pays to support the denomination. Schweitzer has paid 100% of our apportionments. Groups have formed to openly plan for the separation or even dissolution of the United Methodist Church.
Get ready… because we’re gearing up for another General Conference. Our General Conference in February was a specially-called conference; in May we will have our regularly-scheduled conference. In a few months, delegates from around the world will gather in Minneapolis to once again write the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. This time around, there are multiple plans that have been put forward for the formal separation or dissolution of the United Methodist Church. These plans are coming from traditionalists and progressives. It is hard to see a future where the United Methodist Church continues to look like it does today.
I have been (and still am) hesitant to talk about the future of the United Methodist Church because there are so many unknowns. I decided to attend this week’s meeting to learn more about what could happen. This meeting I attended was specifically designed for pastors of large churches to get to know one another.
It is easy in these kinds of meetings to become discouraged because there are so many unknowns in our future. However, the tone of this meeting was very hopeful. We spent a few hours discussing what was going on in the United Methodist Church. Then we quickly moved on to more important matters. We spent most of our time together talking about ministry. We discussed some best practices for reaching more people with the gospel. We talked about church-planting and multi-sites. We talked about preaching in ways that connect with skeptics. We talked about church health and renewal in the church. We heard stories of revival taking place in different pockets of Methodism around the world.
I’m thankful the Lord put this on my mind to attend this meeting this week because it was a reminder that while the United Methodist Church faces an uncertain future the mission of God continues. God is still using our church to make disciples. At the end of the day disciple-making is what I want to do and what I want us to be about. It’s always good to be reminded of what’s really important.
If you ever have any questions about what’s happening in the United Methodist Church, I hope you’ll reach out to me. I may not have any answers but I’d love to talk with you about our future together.