A Denomination Divided

The United Methodist Church has made the news again. It announced last week that General Conference 2020 has been postponed another time. General Conference is the highest decision-making body of the United Methodist Church and is held every four years. As you may remember, the United Methodist Church had to postpone General Conference 2020 because of the global pandemic. We are now postponing again until 2024.

There are many reasons for this postponement. We are a global church, and right now it’s extremely hard to get visas. Time zone differences would make it nearly impossible to hold hybrid meetings. The reasons go on and on, and not everyone agrees with it. However, this decision places a hard date on when we will meet together and helps the denomination move forward into the months to come.

This decision has ramifications for those who have been working for a more inclusive church and for those who are holding tight to a more traditionalist view of church. For some, we are stuck with the traditionalist legislation from the 2019 special General Conference that focuses on retribution and limits God’s grace. For others, we are stuck with an incomplete legislation from 2019 that doesn’t address the issues fully. For most everyone, we are in limbo with unfinished business from 2019.

Shortly on the heels of this decision, the Global Methodist Church announced it will launch on May 1. This new denomination has formed out of the work of the Wesley Covenant Association and the Good News movement and others. It sets itself apart as a conservative voice in Methodism. I have not looked at its website much, but it stands firmly against the progressive voices in the UMC while embracing churches that support bans on gay weddings and ordination.

Personally, this second news is painful for me. I don’t want a church split. I believe we are a stronger church when we are a church with differences. I need my more progressive friends to push me. I need my more conservative friends to challenge me. When I am around people all like me, I don’t grow as much. It’s also painful when I hear story after story of Wesley Covenant Association members name-calling and attempting to poach churches and members with their exclusion. Just this week a District Superintendent was physically prevented from entering a UMC while a meeting was happening, because the leadership of the Wesley Covenant Association holding the meeting didn’t want him present. This pains me.

However, I know we have been divided on the issue of human sexuality since the inception of the United Methodist Church. It’s time to stop making sexuality a bigger “sin” than any of the sins Jesus actually mentions. It’s time to stop being known as a church for who we are excluding, more than for the work we do to change the world for Christ. I’m tired of fighting over who is “holy” enough to be part of church and leadership and ready to roll up my sleeves and work beside all who are called children of God.

I don’t know the future of the church. I don’t know what we will encounter in the next couple of years as we wait for General Conference. There will be more Judicial Council rulings (the UMC equivalent of the Supreme Court). There will be more questions raised. More churches leaving the denomination. More people harmed by the 2019 legislation. More people leaving the fighting of the denomination.

Ultimately, I don’t know the future of the church. But I do know that here at St. Mark’s, we will continue to be about the work of changing the world through Christ by caring for all people. We will continue to care for ALL people, with opportunities to care for refugees, for our Nash Elementary School families, for our college students. We will continue to care for our Early Childhood Center families and our neighbors in care facilities. We will continue to collect food for Interfaith Community Services and the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank. We will continue to change the world.

That is what Christ calls us to.
Won’t you join as we care for all people?
Won’t you join me as we change the world through Christ?

It’s not easy. But it starts with grace and acceptance, even when we may not agree.

See you soon.
Pastor Lynn

Another announcement:
Each week one of our pastors will share a short Lenten video devotion on our social media pages. It will be included in our Friday emails for those who don’t have social media. Our staff won’t be sharing weekly devotions after all, but be sure and check out the display in the Welcome Center from Rachel Mosher. This visual interpretation of The Lord’s Prayer is powerful. As an added bonus, the photos will be available for purchase after Lent!

This week’s video can be found here.

(Masks are encouraged.)

Join us for worship:

  • 8:30 a.m. Traditional service with choirs in Sanctuary and child care in Rm 15
  • 10 a.m. Modern worship service with Praise Team in Fellowship Hall
  • 10 a.m. Traditional service with choirs in Sanctuary
  • 10 a.m. Youth and children’s Sunday School and child care
  • 10 a.m. Livestream premieres on YouTube and Website

To access our livestream service:

  • From the main menu on our website click “Worship.”  -OR-
  • Go to YouTube and search for UMC St. Mark’s Oro Valley or use this link.