We know there has been much concern regarding the special-called General Conference that concluded last week in St. Louis, and we would like to take this opportunity to report what actually happened.
*The Traditional Plan passed. This means that our teachings regarding marriage and ordination WILL NOT change. It also means that there are increased penalties for clergy who violate the book of discipline around these matters. For more information, please see one of the many articles at umc.org.
*A resolution was passed that requires churches that wish to leave our denomination to pay their fair share of unfunded pension liabilities. This will ensure that we keep our promises to retired pastors serving across the connection.
*General Conference passed a “graceful exit” provision that will allow churches to depart our denomination with their property and assets. There are some financial requirements for departing. For more specific information, we again refer you to umc.org.
However, the Judicial Council (our church’s Supreme Court) will review both the Traditional Plan and the “graceful exit” resolution to see if they comply with our denomination’s constitution. The Judicial Council is scheduled to meet in late April, and umc.org will be reporting on the outcome as soon as it is released.
So what should we do in response to the decisions made at General Conference? We believe the answer is simple: we will continue doing the same things we’ve always been doing. Our church will continue to host worship and Sunday School every Sunday morning; we will continue to be in mission in our community and beyond; we will continue to love our children and youth and provide them with programming that brings them closer to Christ; we will continue to love one another even as we welcome new people into our community of faith.
First United Methodist Church is a strong and vibrant congregation. Now that General Conference has concluded, let us turn to the work God has given us to do right where we are. We are proud to be United Methodists, and we are so honored to serve as your pastor and lay leader.
We look forward to seeing you on Ash Wednesday and again this Sunday as we begin the Lenten season.
Rev. Dr. Timothy Prather Dr. Steve Shirley
Senior Pastor Lay Leader