Dear St. Andrew Family,
Late Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis, the United Methodist Church betrayed its most essential and enduring standard for Christian faith and practice: “do no harm.” The events and outcomes of the Special Session of the General Conference have done irreparable harm to the LGBTQ family, as well as to the majority of United Methodists who live in the US and represent a more centrist and generous orthodoxy. It is a sad day as we confront the dark reality of what has taken place, and the difficult decisions we now face as a congregation.
As I am sure you know, delegates to General Conference voted to retain and reinforce policies prohibiting LGBTQ clergy and same-gender weddings. These policies, and the new consequences for violating them, are barbaric, shameful, and intolerable. While 66% of the delegates from North America did not support this plan, the majority of delegates from around the globe, including the Philippines and Africa, overwhelmingly did. Our long-standing mission to be a global denomination has infused the United Methodist Church with remarkable diversity and extraordinary growth for decades. Sadly, it has now exiled the centrists and progressives who represent the clear majority of United Methodists in the US.
The United Methodist Church, as we have known it, died on Tuesday. Because it is no longer a denomination for all people, St. Andrew is now a congregation without a home. Make no mistake: Today, St. Andrew is more fiercely committed to being a home for all people than ever before.
As your pastor, let me share with you a few thoughts as we try to sift through the rubble this morning.
First, my heart is especially with our LGBTQ members and families. Please know that I love you, I see you, and I hurt for you and with you. As a father of a lesbian daughter, we share the pain and disillusionment of this outcome. You are not alone. If you need to talk or process what you are feeling, I will make myself available to you at any time. The entire pastoral team is here for you. If you are a parent of an LGBTQ student, please be extra vigilant, listen deeply, create space for conversations with your child, and reinforce that St. Andrew is a safe community that categorically rejects the policies of our denomination. These are tender times for all of us, but they are especially tender for our students who are navigating so many personal, social, and religious challenges in their lives. I am so deeply sorry that the church has only added to the already heavy burdens carried by the LGBTQ family.
Second, St. Andrew will continue to practice Biblical disobedience in the face of unnecessarily cruel and unjust policies. We will refuse to follow all rules or restrictions in our Book of Discipline regarding sexual orientation. Instead, we will follow the Holy Spirit, serve in a spirit of boundless love, and act out of Christian conscience rather than fear and conformity. As your pastor, I will be in ministry with you and for you in absolutely every way—including praying with you, worshiping with you, serving you communion, and presiding at your wedding, whether you’re gay or straight.
Third, the temptation in moments like these is to act reflexively and unreasonably. Your best move right now, as a member or constituent of St. Andrew, is to show up, invest in, and recommit to this incredible and rare community of faith. This is not the time to withhold your giving in protest, or to sit on the sidelines in defeat. We need each other now more than ever. We will rise up, and rise above the pain and disappointment of this moment, to claim a just and hopeful future for the church.
Fourth, St. Andrew will have a key voice in the conversation about what is next for those United Methodists now exiled by the decisions of General Conference. St. Andrew is the second largest Reconciling congregation in the denomination, and we will not accept the status quo. We will consider every option before us, including a gracious exit from the denomination. These conversations will begin soon, but will likely last for months. Your patience and grace, along with your input, will prove necessary and invaluable.
Finally, much of what was approved by General Conference on Tuesday will face rigorous legal challenges in the coming weeks. The Judicial Council (our denomination’s Supreme Court) will soon rule on the constitutionality of the petitions passed yesterday. It is already clear that many items are unconstitutional, but it will take months for the dust to settle. It is possible that, at the end of the day, many of the items pertaining to greater enforcement of policies will not become church law. Nevertheless, it is clear that the future of the denomination is in peril, that unity is now beyond reach, and that the mainline has been sidelined.
We will host a church-wide gathering tonight at 6:00 pm in Fellowship Hall to process all of this together. This will be a time to share more about what we know as of today, and for you to share your concerns, fears and questions with the pastoral team. We will resume the conversation this Sunday at 11:45 am in Fellowship Hall. I invite you to both of these gatherings.
As you know, my plan was to conclude the “House Divided” series this weekend with a sermon on the topic of creation and climate. Given the events of this week, and its impact on St. Andrew, I will speak on the more urgent issue of our future as a denomination, and where the Spirit may be leading us as a congregation.
I have never been more proud to be your pastor, and more grateful for the opportunity to lead you through this next season of our life together. All is not lost. In the stump is a holy seed. Let us see the good thing that God is about to do among us. Grace, peace, and love,