Every four years several thousand delegates, staff and observers representing United Methodists from around the world gather for a two week meeting to set the course of the church for the next four years. We call this meeting the General Conference. This year the General Conference is May 10-20 and will be held in Portland, Oregon. The General Conference is the only group that speaks officially for all United Methodism. This is also the setting where changes can be made to our Book of Discipline which contains our doctrinal standards and the guidelines of how local churches, church agencies and clergy are to operate.
The gathering of United Methodist from around the world is a marvelous thing. There is much to be learned from our brothers and sisters from other cultures and countries.
Our denomination is polarized over sexuality issues. Currently we prohibit any self-avowed, practicing homosexual to be ordained in the UMC. The other hot issue on this topic is same-sex marriages, which UM clergy are prohibited to conduct or participate in. The homosexual debate has been ongoing ever since the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged into the United Methodist Church in 1968.
This year, petitions on sexuality will be presented that would allow conservatives to practice as they choose and allow progressives to practice as they choose. There will also be petitions that propose a split in the denomination or a world-wide restructuring.
We United Methodists are part of a great heritage and have a good sound biblical foundation. Our Wesleyan theology is rooted in the grace of God to all people. We have a history of social change and outreach to the marginalized of society.
I will be attending the General Conference and I would ask that you would be in prayer. When we pray “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, ask God to apply this to the May conference. It will indeed take the hand of God to move the UMC to a place where “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” will again become a priority.
In Christ’s Service,