The Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO ended last evening. Their work is complete, but ours is just beginning.
My prayer was that this special session would finally provide an official way forward for those among us who, responding to the call of Christ, long to fully embrace our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in marriage and ministry. Unfortunately, it did not. The "One Church Plan" (the compromise supported by a clear majority of US delegates and for which many of us advocated) failed. Instead, the "Traditional Plan" (which hardens our restrictive language) passed--due largely to the support of international delegates. It was a day of tears, anger, and embarrassment.
Nevertheless, there are signs of hope. The "Traditional Plan" has twice been ruled "unconstitutional" by the Judicial Council (both before the Special Session and during). As a result, most of the provisions of the plan are expected to be rendered moot. If that happens, the Wesleyan Covenant Association (a conservative splinter group) has said that it will leave the denomination. While I lament the occasion of their loss, it now seems inevitable that The United Methodist Church will divorce.
Where does that leave us? To be honest, it is still a little early to know for sure. Over the next few days, we will hear from the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council as to what legislation will stand. Following that, Annual Conferences, Jurisdictions, and local churches will plan their responses. To that end, we will have a meeting tonight at 6 pm (following the community dinner) as well as a town hall meeting following the 11 am service on Sunday. Both will take place in Fellowship Hall. At those meetings, we will share more detailed information about what happened and begin to prayerfully process together how we will respond.
As of now, nothing has changed--not within the denomination and most assuredly not at Asbury First. We will continue to advocate, agitate, and advance the full inclusion of our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. I recognize that there will be many who hear this news and feel that it is time to leave Asbury First. I echo your anger, mourn your loss, and will love you and support you whatever decision you make. But make no mistake; the church needs you now more than ever. The church needs us now more than ever. If you are willing to answer the call of Christ to stand up for justice, this is a time when Asbury First can be at the vanguard of the change that is coming. It may be that God is doing something new.
Thank you for your prayers and your support for all of those hurt by these events, both those within our congregation and those who may never come because of this. Asbury First is blessed to be a church with a future as strong as its past. With our help, the denomination might be as well.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady II