“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
– Romans 8:31
I’m sure that many of you already know the outcome of the voting at General Conference from yesterday. It has been featured by the AP, The Times, USA Today, and other major news outlets. The Traditionalist Plan passed with 53% of the vote at General Conference. It is a plan which will create a system of increased punishments for clergy who perform LGBTQ weddings and seeks to invalidate the ordinations of LGBTQ clergy in our conference and other conferences. Further, for pastors like me who are not LGBTQ, this legislation will require them to sign doctrinal agreement statements on issues of LGBTQ inclusion for the first time.
As I feared when I sent my last update, this plan has already put us further away from unity than we’ve ever been. The Western Jurisdiction, of which our annual conference is a part, has already pledged non-compliance. Moreover, this legislation has already been ruled largely unconstitutional, so we’re not even sure that it will be enacted. So it is yet to be seen what this will do to our denomination in the coming days.
So, as you hear the news and are grieving or are excited, I ask you to take a breath because no one wins when the Church is divided. No one walks away from this General Conference unharmed. Everyone feels hurt. So take a breath and recognize that we don’t even know what this will mean going forward as the work of Judicial Council and the Annual Conferences begins. There is a lot of uncertainty!
When the Apostle Paul wrote Romans he was also facing a lot of uncertainty. He had left his people, left the covenant friendship of the Pharisees, dodged persecution from the ones he once called friends, and had been traveling as a stranger in strange lands for more than a decade. And he still writes, “If God is for us, who can be against?” His faith in the face of suffering and turmoil is amazing!
Then he says something even more amazing. Romans 8:35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” And his answer is “no.” Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Not turmoil, not fear, not conference decisions, not even death – nothing can separate us from the love of God.
And so, I ask of you: Pray for your Church. Pray for its leaders. Pray for our LGBTQ sisters and brothers who wake up to a different church than they once thought they had. Pray for those who grieve.
Though we may be divided in heart and mind, nothing can separate us from the love of God.
The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ go with you.