2019 Special Session of the General Conference Update From Pastor Keith
General Conference 2019
Thank you for sending Adrienne and me to observe General Conference 2019 (GC). The conference was held at The Dome, St. Louis, February 23-26.
A letter from our Bishop
I would like to share some reflections but allow me to first share Bishop Nunn’s letter to us:
“The conference voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage, continued the policy that does not provide for clergy to officiate or churches to host same gender weddings, and continues the current standards for ordination.
“The conference adopted legislation requiring bishops to provide additional certification that they will uphold provisions of the Discipline or face involuntary changes in relationship with the church, to insure persons nominated to credentialing bodies uphold all the Discipline, and to guide the process for the administration of complaints.
“These matters were referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory ruling regarding their constitutionality. When the Judicial Council releases their findings after their review of the legislation, the Church will then know what has been enacted. For now, please continue to pray for the church, for all who have felt pain and harm from the proceedings, and for God to guide us in the path ahead.
“A plan for a church to disaffiliate from the denomination was approved.
“The Oklahoma Conference delegates dedicated themselves to tasks before them. The process was emotionally challenging for everyone in the room, regardless of their convictions. Thank you for your prayers before and during the meeting. Please continue to pray for the church.”
Why was the Conference called?
The task before GC was to determine how we might remain united as one church while holding two mutually exclusive understandings of human sexuality.
What was decided?
Considering the expectations leading up to GC, perhaps what is remarkable is how little actually changed. The 864 delegates from around the world voted definitively to:
1. Affirm the Church teaching on human sexuality, that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,
2. Hold clergy, including bishops, accountable to follow the rules they vow to uphold at their ordination, and
3. Allow congregations who cannot live by the rules of the church regarding human sexuality, to leave with the blessing of those who remain. The terms of exit and the constitutionality of this decision are not yet clear.
Each decision of GC will be reviewed to determine whether it meets the constitutional requirements of the UMC.
Some other thoughts and observations
Did a winner emerge from GC? I would say that no one “won.” The results reflect deep division within the UMC in the US and Europe, while the UMC located in other parts of the world is more united on these issues.
St. Mark’s will continue to welcome and share the Gospel with all.
Both Adrienne and I are happy to visit about our experiences at GC2019.
Peace, mercy and grace,
The next General Conference will be at Minneapolis, May 5-15, 2020. Delegates will be elected this Spring during regional conferences around the world. In Oklahoma, we will elect delegates during Annual Conference, May 28-30, 2019 at Oklahoma City University.