The Special Called General Conference of The United Methodist Church will be held on February 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. Lay and clergy delegates will gather from our world-wide United Methodist connection to address one matter. The matter is whether The United Methodist Church will be fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons.
The Commission on A Way Forward in prayerful collaboration with our Council of Bishops has submitted its report to the General Conference. As is our General Conference process, others have submitted additional petitions for the General Conference to consider. The petitions that the General Conference will be considering have all been deemed to be relevant to the discussion of whether LGBTQ persons should be fully included in the life, mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church.
Unlike regular General Conferences that meet over a 10-day period, the Special-Called General Conference will meet for only 4 days because it is addressing only one concern and thus has a very focused body of work.
As United Methodists we have historically met in conferences like the General Conference. We refer to these moments of gathering for decision-making as times of Christian Conferencing. It is our strong-held belief that when God’s people gather to ask God for wisdom and direction, that God shows up among us through the presence of the Holy Spirit and does faithfully lead us if we will but listen to and be open to the voice and movement of the Holy Spirit.
Those attending the Special-Called General Conference will come from their distinct contexts of ministry, and with their own biblical and theological understandings. Already there are those who have declared themselves traditionalists, centrists or progressives. My hope is that as the General Conference gathers in St. Louis that we will all remember that more important than anything else, is that we have been called to be followers of Jesus the Christ; to live and serve as he did. Jesus was a servant leader and we should strive to be his servants in the world and in our relationships with one another.
I also hope that we United Methodists will remember that we are members of the body of Jesus Christ; Christians among an expansive body of Christians of many traditions and denominations. Humbly we should remember that we are blessed to be a part of the greater body of Christ, of whom Jesus our Lord, and he alone, is the head. I pray that we will also remember that the body of Christ has been broken too often by the divisions among those of us who claim to be Christians. My fervent hope is that as our General Conference meets, our behavior will not further add to the brokenness of the body of Christ.
Above all, I am praying that the delegates of the Special-Called General Conference of our beloved United Methodist Church will be brave enough to do the will of God, for the sake of the future of The United Methodist Church and its sacred work, but even more, so that we might be found pleasing unto God.
Let us pray together and without ceasing for the Special-Called General Conference and for The United Methodist Church.