Bethlehem United Methodist Church
Friday, February 22, 2019
Mission Statement: To give of ourselves so others may know Jesus Christ.




Dear Friends in Christ,

   This is a month which could change the history of the United Methodist Church. Over the past two years, I have included a weekly prayer request asking your prayerful attention for the United Methodist Church as we have come to a crossroad in dealing with matters regarding the practice of human sexuality.

   The special session of General Conference is scheduled for February 23-26 in St. Louis. The delegates have their work cut out for them. A brief history will include that this has been a contended issue in the United Methodist Church for at least 40-50 years... more than the entire length of my career. It became a high priority as follows:

    Long tensions over the denominations stance on homosexuality — including bans on same-sex unions and ordination of gay clergy — boiled over at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, causing open talk of schism. Delegates asked the Council of Bishops to lead the church through the crisis.

   The bishops appointed a Commission on a Way Forward. A 93 page report may be found at this website:  HERE   

   As I described in previous newsletter articles, there are three pathways. I offered summaries. The report shares much more detail.

The pathways are named:

     One Church,

      Traditional and

      Connectional Conference Plans — three distinctly different options.

   Since, then, two more pathways have emerged.

   They are named The Simple Planand The Modified Traditional Plan.

    The Simple Planis described this way as it is said to comprise the best parts of the One Church Plan, and adds nothing more. The Simple Plan removes all identity-based, discriminatory, and punitive language from the Book of Discipline, favoring grace and religious freedom over institutional law, following John Wesleys example.

    The Modified Traditional Plan adds this to the Traditional Plan:add to the Traditional Plan a committee with authority to hold bishops accountable to the sexuality standards in the Book of Discipline. It would offer a $200,000 grant to annual conferences that want to leave the denomination because of disagreement over LGBTQ issues.

   Bishops also called for the special General Conference. Under church law, only petitions deemed in harmony with the stated call or purpose of the gathering can be considered. 78 petitions, in addition to the work of discerning which of these pathways will be acceptable, will appear before the Conference.

   Yes, they have their work cut out for them indeed. And we need to support them in prayer that Godly wisdom, and not human wisdom, will prevail.

   I have some other resources to share:

Dividing the United Methodist  Church.”   HERE

This is an older video, giving history of the issue as it relates to the UM Church. It highlights what is at stake in the debate. It is produced by PBS and is, in my mind, fair in its presentation. However, it does not reach to the last two years of movement.

HERE  is a comparison of the three pathways, side-by-side in columns.

How shall we approach this in our hearts and minds?

Bishop Bickerton has a very brief note of advice on this  HERE

This is how I am trying to behave as your pastor.

Tony Campolo, a highly respected evangelical sociologist, has changed his mind on this topic.

HERE is a short form of his new position

And HERE is a longer form of that position:

Be sharp, men and women.

We will need to respond on the backside of all of this.

Im praying and one of my prayers is that you are studying and praying, too.

Better Disciples, More Disciples.



Links from the Susquehanna District of the United Methodist Church:   HERE