Dear Community Members and Friends,
The recent special General Conference of the UMC held in St. Louis completed its work at the end of February. One of the significant votes that took place among the delegates was whether or not to support the Traditional Plan, which upheld the existing language in the Book of Discipline related to homosexuality, the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and the ability of clergy to officiate at same-sex marriages. The Traditional Plan also clarified consequences that would occur if these rules in the Book of Discipline are broken going forward and provided for a gracious exit from the denomination for bishops, pastors, churches, and even annual conferences if they felt they could no longer support this position.
The vote over these matters was 438 to 384 and indicates that our denomination continues to be quite divided over this issue. Since the news of this vote has occurred there has been a variety of responses. Some are pleased with the outcome, while others are grieving deeply. You also may have noticed a half-page ad that ran last weekend in the Washington Post as a response to the vote taken. St. Thomas was not listed as one of the churches (nor was Haymarket Church) because our leaders and staff have not had adequate time to formulate our response to the General Conference decisions that represents how we feel collectively about the vote taken and all the implications going forward. This dynamic is exacerbated by some of the legislation being sent for review by the Judicial Council (the denomination's “supreme court”), which does not convene until April 23, 2019.
Regardless of all that has taken place over the past few weeks, St. Thomas has a long history of being a dynamic and vital part of the community in Manassas. This has not changed and I believe the Holy Spirit is working among us as we wrestle with these questions impacting our sense of identity and practice of faith within the current context.
As your senior pastor, I recognize that we are a large church, with many opinions; however, many of you have indicated to me through calls, texts and conversations that “everyone is welcome here.” Understandably, hospitality and putting a welcome mat out can look different for each of us. Council and other core leaders have not had an opportunity to unpack this together, nor have we thought through our response to the impact of the General Conference and our alignment with the denomination as a whole. I imagine, congregations all across our denomination are attempting to wrestle with these same questions. We will not be alone as we think about what to do next and discern appropriate steps, so I’d ask that we keep talking with one another and we seek Christ in all things together.
Recently, we conducted a survey to hear back from our congregation. It is anonymous and not binding in any way, but it will provide a snapshot of where we are as a congregation. I want us to take at least 6 months to a year to explore how we will respond to the vote by our General Conference. Also, for further reading, there are a number of resources listed below.
Thank you for participating and giving us your input. The church's leaders will be discussing and formuating a plan that reflects the best way forward for our congregation. As always, I’m happy to speak directly to you. Give me a call or write me an email.
Resources Related to General Conference 2019
For more information about General Conference 2019 and its impact on the UMC going forward, please visit: