The Special Session of General Conference on Human Sexuality concluded Tuesday evening. I wanted to share with you the statement issued on Wednesday from Bishop James Nunn, to all the United Methodist Churches in Oklahoma addressing what occurred at that session and share with you some comments about our church here at Chapel Hill. Here is Bishop Nunn’s statement:
Greetings in the Name of Jesus Christ.
The Called Special Session of the General Conference concluded on February 26, 2019. The opening day of the conference was devoted to a day of prayer. Delegates prayed for the world, the church, the ministry, one another, and themselves.
The delegates of the conference worked diligently seeking a way to find a way forward for the denomination around issues of human sexuality, specifically how we ministry with LGBTQIA persons. The United Methodist Church continues to affirm that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.” Additionally, the Church affirms that “God’s grace is available to all” and aspires “to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (Quotes from The Book of Discipline 2016 ¶161G.)
The conference voted to retain the traditional definition of marriage, continued the policy that does not provide for clergy to officiate or churches to host same gender weddings, and continues the current standards for ordination.
The conference adopted legislation requiring bishops to provide additional certification that they will uphold provisions of the Discipline or face involuntary changes in relationship with the church, to insure persons nominated to credentialing bodies uphold all the Discipline, and to guide the process for the administration of complaints.
These matters were referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory ruling regarding their constitutionality. When the Judicial Council releases their findings after their review of the legislation, the Church will then know what has been enacted. For now, please continue to pray for the church, for all who have felt pain and harm from the proceedings, and for God to guide us in the path ahead.
A plan for a church to disaffiliate from the denomination was approved. The Oklahoma Conference delegates dedicated themselves to tasks before them. The process was emotionally challenging for everyone in the room, regardless of their convictions. Thank you for your prayers before and during the meeting. Please continue to pray for the church.
(Bishop of the Oklahoma Area)
Bishop James Nunn
The four days of the conference were difficult for me personally to watch, and I know from visiting with those in attendance that it was painful and frustrating to participate in and observe regardless of where you sat on the theological spectrum we call United Methodism. I know many of you were in prayer for these matters to be resolved in a way that would be God’s will and glorify God. Some at the conference felt that things turned out the correct way, while others were in great pain about the direction the church seemed to be going. The same can be said for the members of Chapel Hill. We are a diverse theological body and family, and even though we serve the same Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we stand in different places on many issues, and this is one of those issues.
I encourage you to be patient and express Christian love to your brothers and sisters in our church family regardless of where you may stand on the resolution made at General Conference. We are still a family on a journey of discipleship together. We need not create an atmosphere of “winners” and “losers”; we are all family. This is a piece of our journey together, not a destination, and we can choose and should choose to walk with Christ and each other, especially in times that are difficult for parts of our family.
I would remind each of us that we still have a calling on our lives as individuals and a corporate body to live Christ’s love out in the world. We are called to love like the Good Samaritan. That is to love ALL our neighbors, especially the ones that seem furthest from us on every level. Perhaps, following this conference more than ever, the only way they will know we are Christians is by our love. So, I encourage us to double down on the ways we would share the love we have received in Christ with the world regardless of our differences. The love we find expressed in the witness to Jesus’ sacrificial life in the scripture beats anything the Book of Discipline has to offer on its best or worst day. This takes nothing from the Discipline but is to remind us that our primary focus and hope is to be found in Jesus Christ.
In the midst of it all, God is still God, and Jesus is still Lord and Savior of all. Which leads me to one of my favorite verses, and affirmations of our faith together, which is meant for ALL people:
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Romans 8: 35, 37-39
In order to move forward in Christ’s love we must focus ourselves and our church on why we are the church. The General Conference changed nothing in what Jesus is asking of us as we move forward. We are now more than ever called to “love God and our neighbor.” We are empowered to have hearts for sharing Jesus’ love by reaching all of the next generation and inviting them on this journey of discipleship. This is why we are here and it is the same “Why” we lived out of a week ago and live into today and all our tomorrows.
I encourage you to pray for:
Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, our church family, to move forward more faithfully into our “why” of having hearts for loving
The United Methodist Church
Those who are hurting over what occurred at the conference
Those who are happy or relieved about what occurred at the conference
Let us always remember we live under the amazing grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and let us go forward together as the family of God called Chapel Hill United Methodist Church to proclaim that love to the next generation and the whole world.
In the hope of the Resurrected Christ,