Major news outlets and social media have been abuzz the last several days regarding the outcome of The United Methodist Church’s special called General Conference. Tuesday of last week, the 26th, was the last day of the four-day meeting. As pastor of RiverStone Church, a United Methodist church, I wanted to share with the Farmington and Four Corners area where RiverStone Church stands.
Very briefly, I need to first inform you that the United Methodist Church is Protestant and global with about 12.6 million members. Organizationally, we are connectional; that is, each congregation is not autonomous, but a member of the larger church. Our denomination meets every four years to discuss and make decisions regarding our faith, various ministries across the world, and how we address various concerns in the world. Which means that the only entity that can speak officially for the UMC is the General Conference.
Our recent Conference continued to affirm our long-held views regarding persons, marriage and human sexuality. With regards to the person, “we affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth”. This is an essential truth communicated in God’s Word, the Bible, which tells us all persons are created in the image of God. (Genesis 1:26-27) That image was marred, broken by sin. (Genesis 3:15) All of us have sinned, we are all broken in some way unable to restore our relationship with God. (Romans 3:23) Which is why God acted for us in sending Jesus Christ into the world to make possible our being healed, restored, made whole through the grace and power of Jesus Christ. (John 3:16-17) Likewise, then, we are called and seek to love every person and welcome all to worship and participate in the life of our congregations. (Matthew 22:37)
I, we, hate no one. Well, ok, I “hate” the N. Carolina Tarheels. (I’m a Duke graduate). My heart breaks for anyone who doesn’t have the joy of knowing Jesus, or the sense of belonging to a family or community. I’ve known the pain of being without those.
Our leadership and I know everyone have struggles and tendencies that are not aligned with God’s design and purposes for our lives. It’s in those places we seek forgiveness and help from Jesus Christ. We know it’s through Him that we can experience unconditional love, hope, joy, and fulfillment. Which is why we long for every person to be introduced to and have a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
Mindful of this conviction, I recognize that the values and ethics of many are not informed by the Bible, or maybe even out of the same view of the Bible. I know that there even United Methodists in our area whose opinion differ from our Conference. Therefore, it’s with some confidence that I assume there will be some who disagree with what I’m about to share or even take offense. This is especially true due to the charged climate of our public discourse. But please take it to heart when I say that what I share is not meant to offend or with malice, rather out of love and desiring the very best for anyone reading this post.
Having stated that, our General Conference maintained our views regarding marriage or human sexuality which are based in God’s Word. Regarding marriage, “we affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and share fidelity between a man and a woman…sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.” (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:7; Ephesians 5:31-32) Regarding sexual orientation, “We affirm that sexuality is God’s good gift to all persons. We call everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift…The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” (Leviticus 18:22; Matthew 5:17; Romans 1:24-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
I stated previously the realistic expectation that some would disagree or take offense. Again, our reading of Scripture tells us that God deeply loves and wants His best for us. Likewise, we at RiverStone Church want the same. Sometimes people assume that because a conviction or stand is held, the one stating it is ignorant of or their life has not been affected by the matter at hand. This is not so in my case. I have been and am profoundly impacted by these issues. I have and maintain relationships with family and others who identify themselves within the LGBTQIA demographic.
Also, some would hold that because I disagree with them I do not love them. Listen, my wife and I disagree at times, but we always love each other. We all can love each other and not agree.
Last, some may think that when a LGBTQIA person comes to RiverStone Church they will be pressured to change. Friends, we can’t change anybody, and we know it. We do believe that the Holy Spirit, God at work in each person’s life and the world, can facilitate and empower transformation in anyone. In the meantime, it’s our aim to love, encourage, and support everyone in their life’s journey.
People who are considering attending rightly want to know what a congregation or denomination believes and why it does so. Obviously, conversation regarding these touch on multiple facets and cannot be addressed here in a comprehensive manner. But I would welcome the opportunity to visit with anyone regarding these or other matters. I pray and hope that some will avail themselves of this offer.
In the meantime, know that whoever you are, however you see yourself, wherever you have been, you are invited to RiverStone Church where you will be loved, valued and welcomed as one created by God. Our website, rs.church, has times and other information.