Each year, in June, I head to Redlands University, site of our Annual Conference. As you may or may not know, our denomination is organized by conferences, jurisdictions, districts, and local churches.
There is a General Conference, held every four years. Delegates from the global church meet and make decisions that impact our Book of Discipline, the book that contains our history, theological understanding, structure and social principles.
There are currently five Jurisdictions: Northeast, South, Southeast, Western and Central. Each Jurisdiction is responsible primarily for electing Bishops and meets every four years, usually after the General Conference.
Each Jurisdiction has several Conferences. Our conference, the California-Pacific, stretches from the Mexican border to Paso Robles, out to Hawaii, Guam and Saipan. (There is more water than land in our conference!)
There are about 350 local churches in our conference. Our conference has five Districts, North, South, East, West and Hawaii. We are in the South District, which includes Imperial County, San Diego County, parts of Orange, and Riverside Counties. there are 79 local churches in our South District.
So we are the First United Methodist Church of El Centro in the South District of the California-Pacific Conference in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.
There are about 9 million members of the United Methodist Church.
One of the main issues we discussed at our Annual Conference in 2018 was existential. Are we going to remain the United Methodist Church? The issue is how we interpret the language of the Bible that talks about human sexuality. Mind you we are arguing about interpretations of the English language, as it is translated from the ancient, original languages of Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic and a couple of others.
At the 2016 General Conference we almost experienced a schism. At the 11th Hour the Council of Bishops came up with a plan for a “Way Forward” that led to forming a study group that would make recommendations to the Bishops on how to move forward.
A Special General Conference will be held this week to decide what we will do. Three plans were given to the Bishops and the Bishops are recommending one of them.
It is called the One Church Plan. The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. Central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — could maintain current restrictions.
The other two plans on the table are:
The Traditionalist Plan, which would affirm the current language in the denomination’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document, and seek to strengthen enforcement.
The Connectional-Conference plan, which would allow conferences to choose among three connectional conferences for affiliation. The connectional conferences would align based on theology or perspective on LGBTQ ministry — be it traditionalist, progressive or allowing for a variety of approaches. This plan would require multiple amendments to the denomination’s constitution.
One of the outcomes will involve churches voting to decide how they will align with the denomination. Some will choose to leave the denomination. While all of this may seem very disrupting, the reality is not a whole lot will necessarily change at the local level, especially here in The Valley. We will still have the work of Christ to do, work that is embodied in our practice of open hearts, minds and doors.
So there you have it. It seems all my colleagues have an idea how this will end. For my part I want to continue to be open to the Holy Spirit. I think as long as I do that we will be who and what God calls us to be.
We pray that what will be will be what is best for all concerned.
On the Calendar for this Week:
Special General Conference, in St. Louis, begins on the 23rd.
Citizenship Classes on Thursday
ESL Conversation Group on Friday
Prayer Joys and Concerns
Prayers for Shirley Bonillas’ mother.
Healing prayers for Toni Andrews.
Prayers for Sam Tyler.
Prayers for Carolyn Stinson.
Be well. See you Sunday!
In Christ’s love, Pastor Ron
Rev. Dr. Ron Griffen
First United Methodist Church, El Centro
312 S. 8th St.
Facebook: First United Methodist church El Centro
"Ring the bell that still can ring. Forget the perfect offering. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." --Leonard Cohen
"You are the light of the world. You are the salt of the earth." --Jesus of Nazareth