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A Special Message from Rev. John Hill
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A Response to General Conference

Dearly beloved siblings in Christ,

 

As I awoke this morning – the day after the Called General Conference of The United Methodist Church – the heaviness is still with me. I feel like the Psalmist in Psalm 43:5a:
 

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?”


Like many of you, I am sad, disappointed, angry, hurt, ashamed, afraid, uncertain, anxious. I have prayed, I have cried, I have shaken my fist, I have bowed my head, I have read way too much on the internet, and I have spoken with and supported friends and colleagues.

Yesterday, The United Methodist Church – the Church that raised me and taught me that God loves everyone and so should I – tried to put limits on that love. The General Conference approved an amended Traditional Plan that reaffirms that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, that our church will not ordain openly gay and lesbian pastors, and that living out one’s sexual identity can be “incompatible with Christian teaching.” I cannot fully grasp the harm this must perpetrate against members of the LGBTQ+ community. While I know that I am not directly responsible for it, I am sorry and I repent.

 

Practically speaking, the next big picture step is to wait and see. The constitutionality of the Traditional Plan has been challenged, and the Judicial Council will make a ruling about this in late April. There will likely be individuals and churches and maybe even entire annual conferences that leave The United Methodist Church over the coming weeks and months and years. The General Conference will meet again in 2020, and these issues will undoubtedly be raised again. This is not over. The Called General Conference was called to seek a way forward together despite the divisions and disagreements within The United Methodist Church. It is clear to me and many others that a way forward together is no longer possible and that we are doing more harm than good by trying to stay united. I do not know what the future holds, but my prediction all along has been that our denomination will schism in some way by 2020.

For Blakemore, our next step is to keep doing what we're doing. The actions of General Conference do not change our mission, vision, values, or commitment to inclusion. We will continue to welcome all people into the life and ministry of our congregation. We will continue to provide food for those who are hungry and shelter to those who don’t have a place to lay their head. We will continue to teach our children what it means to know and follow Jesus Christ. We will continue to gather each week to worship, pray, study, and sing. We will continue to partner with organizations like Project Transformation and Raise the Roof Academy to see God’s reign come here on earth. We will continue with our capital campaign to ensure One Hundred Thirty More years of life-changing ministry. As things unfold at the larger level, our local work remains unchanged. But we will be attuned to the bigger picture and discern together how God is calling us to be in connection with others.

 

This Sunday, we will gather in the Sanctuary for worship at 10:30 a.m. I hope you’ll join us. While I know we have various opinions about LGBTQ+ inclusion within our congregation, we are still united in Christ’s love. On Sunday, we will hear words of hope from scripture, we will sing hymns of our faith tradition, we will reason out together what God is saying, and we will experience life in community. We will have space for lament and time for anointing and healing. We will all gather around the Communion Table together. And ultimately, we will stand in a circle and see the light of Christ in one another’s faces.

 

Fittingly, Lent begins a week from today. In many ways, it feels to me like it has already begun. This year, Blakemore will be walking with Jesus during Lent as we look more closely at the stories of his last week of life. I hope you’ll walk this road with me. I hope you won’t give up on the Church. I hope you’ll let the God who brings life from death continue to work in and through you. I believe with all my heart that God is doing something great – abundantly far more than we dare to dream or imagine – through the people of Blakemore. No decision by General Conference will change that.

 

As always, I’m happy to talk with you individually if you have questions or just need to process or vent or cry. I’m not abandoning ship, and I hope you won’t either – we’ve come too far together! The verse from Psalm 43 that I quoted above concludes,
 

"Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”


Despite my deep devastation, I have hope and know that God is still God and still loves us all.

 

Grace and Peace,
Rev. John Hill

For more information:
Bishop McAllily's Statement
Adam Hamilton's Speech against the Traditional Plan
Copyright © 2019 Blakemore United Methodist Church, All rights reserved.


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