The mission of the church is to increase love for God and neighbor. Jesus teaches this in the Great Commandment:
Jesus replied, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:36-39
We live this mission out by growing in our love of God through worship (including baptism and communion) and spiritual disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, and fasting. We grow closer to our neighbors through service, such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and by being generous with our material wealth.
First Phoenix Forward
The Book of Discipline, United Methodists’ law and doctrine guide states in section 304.4, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”. It goes on to forbid ordination of LGBTQIA pastors and bishops, bans pastors from performing same-sex weddings and the church’s property from being used for same-sex weddings. The language has long been debated at general conferences every four years and an agreement about how to change the section was never reached. A special meeting earlier this year convened to vote on three plans. The ‘Traditional Plan’ which kept section 304.4 and added penalties for non-compliance was approved and upheld by the UMC’s judiciary.
The Traditional Plan Summary:
- Effective January 1st, 2020
- No LGBTQIA clergy or bishops.
- One year suspension without pay for clergy who perform same-sex weddings-first offense; termination for repeat offense.
- Provides process for churches to disaffiliate with UMC and keep their church property.
Action Timeline and Process:
There are multiple groups across the denomination formulating plans to challenge the Traditional Plan and/or create a new inclusive denomination. All UMC churches that vote to disaffiliate “for reasons of conscience regarding issues of human sexuality” must complete the entire process by December 31st, 2023. They must be up-to-date with their apportionments and pay an additional year’s worth of apportionments at the time of exit. The disaffiliation process starts with a 2/3 majority church vote, then separation terms and dates are reviewed by the annual conference board and the disaffiliation is approved after a majority vote at our annual conference. Once disaffiliation is approved, churches can choose to become affiliated with a new denomination.
Here at First Church:
Our church will continue to live what we believe as an inclusive congregation regardless of the passage of the Traditional Plan. Because there is currently a lot happening within the denomination’s move forward with regards to inclusivity, our church has established a task force to collect information, keep the congregation informed and to listen to any concerns. Our church will be voting to either remain in the United Methodist Church or to disaffiliate from the denomination. A date for our church vote has not yet been determined.
What You Can Do:
Pray for our church. Stay informed via our website, newsletter, bulletin, pastor, task force members and church meetings. Read a summary of what happened at the 2019 conference from UM News at:
http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/what-happened-and-what-didnt-at-general-conference-2019 and about the UMC Next Plan at: