As The United Methodist Church discerns a way forward concerning the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ persons, GNJ has affirmed that there is and will be differences among us and that we will support congregations to develop covenants about its ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. The denomination at its next general conference will consider the following possible next steps:
1. Divide the denomination into two to three separate denominations.
2. Allow United Methodists to go and start new denominations that congregations may join.
3. Create the United States United Methodists to be a regional church that allows it to establish new laws or change existing laws for the church.
4. No change to the current Book of Discipline.
Solutions may include any combination of the listed four or something else that may emerge. As it stands at this moment, there is no plan to remove the restrictive language concerning ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. The one path where this potential occurs is the one that would form regional churches with one being in the United States in which the U.S. regional church could remove the restrictive language. This could not occur for at least two to four years.
While our beloved denomination seeks a general solution to its impasse, GNJ has affirmed in listening sessions and voted in a special session of annual conference to find solutions that we remain united and allow for local and contextual application of God’s grace and ministry with and by LGBTQ persons. And while we will closely monitor denominational solutions, we will continue to live with difference based in common hope, commitment and action.
God will be glorified, hearts will be reborn and communities will transformed as we live and serve like Jesus Christ.
We will connect with all our congregations and offer congregations assistance to thrive in their context recognizing different convictions. Congregations thrive as they are led by the Holy Spirit to make and grow disciples and focus outward to serve the community where they are located. We will provide trained facilitators when requested by the pastor and lay leadership to guide congregations with important conversations and assist congregations to develop covenants for their ministry. This may also include assisting gracefully congregations choose to The United Methodist Church and join a newly formed Methodist Church.
We want to assure all our congregations that there is a place for you as United Methodists of Greater New Jersey and our commitment is to help all our congregation to thrive.
1. Pray – In your praying, do not see people who are different than you or hold different convictions than you as your obstacle to your beliefs and convictions or what you want for the church. Pray for others as though they matter just like you matter. Pray more for yourself, and who you will be and how the love and grace of Christ will shine through you. May the objective of your prayers not be an outcome you desire but a renewed commitment for who you will be and how you will serve God. Do not see a vote by general conference or the annual conference as a confirmation of your prayer; throughout the ages, the church has taken votes that have wounded the witness and unity of the church only later to be changed by people of a later generation. Here are four biblical and Wesleyan guides to pray at this time:
a. Lord have mercy on me for I am a sinner (Luke 18:13)
b. Bless me God so that I may be a blessing to others (Proverbs 11:25-31)
c. Jesus, let me do no harm (one of the rules from John Wesley’s 3 simple rules)
d. Not my will God but your will (Luke 22:42)I want to assure you that praying these four prayers several times throughout the day will ground and center you in God, open you to opportunities to serve God in new ways.
2. See God in others – don’t we tend to see the faults in others before searching for the God in others? It is what it means to live in a fallen world. We see fallenness before we see God.
3. Ask for help. Many congregations want to avoid important conversations right now. They feel conversation about God, human sexuality, the Bible, The Book of Discipline will lead to hurt and division. As in families, avoiding talking about issues can lead to more pain, hurt and division. These are hard conversations, but we have been working with congregations and leading conversations where people feel heard and understood; agreements emerge, and differences become opportunities to learn and grow.
4. Accept that the future will be different. Not better, not worse but different.
5. Stay focused on what you can do individually and together as a congregation to serve God and the people in your community. Loving God and loving others is the true measure of our faith. (Matthew 22:36-40)
God will see us through this challenging time by working together, remaining focused on our mission, reaching out for help when your congregation needs assistance and most importantly, keeping God first during this time.