For several decades, the LGBTQI issue has been a hot debate at Annual Conference and General Conference not only in our denomination but also other major denominations such as Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and so on. Finally UMC had a General Conference Special Called Session to vote for this specific issue in St. Louis, Missouri, during Feb. 23-26, 2019. There were three plans provided by a way forward committee with two years preparation. Those were One Church Plan, Traditional Plan and Connectional Conference Plan. I already explained the plans in the previous February “Kairos.”
There were 864 delegates representing 13,000,000 UMC members worldwide including Europe, Africa and Asia. The major debate was that the progressive group in favor of LGBTQI plead to amend the Book of Discipline about human sexuality to allow ordination for openly same sex clergy and candidates, and for the wedding of the same sex marriage in the church as ‘One Church Plan’, while the conservative group wanted to keep the authority of the Bible and the tradition of church as ‘Traditional Plan’. The Traditional Plan has been passed with a vote of 438 to 384, 53% to 47%. It has been a long-standing debate for decades with confusion, conflict, frustration, anger and hurt. Now it is all over. The decision rules all UMC churches with the same existing Book of Discipline. The next General Conference in May 2020 in Minneapolis could reconsider the decisions of 2019GC.
How it will impact our local church? It will impact nothing as the Book of Discipline remains the same. By UMC policy as before, any ordination candidate who is openly gay or lesbian can’t be recommended by a local church. He/She might be suggested to pursue their calling in other denomination that allows ordination for homosexuality. It is also not allowed to open the church for the same sex marriage.
I was very confused with this issue between biological clarity and biblical morality about human sexuality. Frankly, it is not still clear for me and I need more study. But the thing I know is not to be judgmental with the things and people that I do not know. What I know is to love, care and heal the people as Jesus did while proclaiming the good news. Some were disappointed and others were appreciated about the decision that our denomination recently made. I humbly accept and respect the decision from their long battling and sufferings. There was no winner and no loser. There was no winner stay and loser leave. There are only disciples of Jesus to love and forgive one anther bringing unity from diversity. I personally welcome LGBTQI to our church and affirm their sacred worth to love and care with equal human right and individual dignity. We are all same sinners seeking for God’s love and grace.
Our Bishop Grant Hagiya said on the decision, “Most of all, we must turn to each other for healing and care. It is time to put our arms around each other and heal from harming each other. It is time for us to have hearts of peace and not hearts of war. It is time for us to support each other and care for each other.”
It is my sincere prayer that our church stay together seeking the way that the Lord lead us holding love and respect one another. Love is beyond reason. We will never lose the identity and tradition of San Marcos UMC as family of God by faith in Jesus.