At the United Methodist Church’s specially called session of General Conference 2019, a vote was taken to adopt large portions of what is called the “Traditional Plan.” This plan primarily reaffirms and clarifies the church’s existing stance on human sexuality. According to the Book of Discipline, marriage is reserved for one man and one woman, and people who are in same-sex relationships are not to be licensed or ordained as pastors. This was the stance before General Conference and this has not changed. Additional statements and practices were added to enforce conformity with the Discipline across the denomination. And, legislation was passed to offer a path for a congregation and/or pastors to exit the denomination at their own choosing.
Other plans submitted, the Simple Plan, the One Church Plan, and the Connectional Conference Plan, would have allowed pastors and churches who feel so led to offer same-sex weddings. Additionally, these plans would have given space for individuals to serve in ministry while openly participating in same-sex relationships. These plans did not pass. Some lay or clergy persons are happy about the decision to affirm the Traditional Plan. Some are grievously disappointed one of the other plans did not pass. Some are still conflicted as to what is the most faithful course of action for our denomination.
What does this mean for Arkansas Methodism? It is our hope that United Methodist Churches will always warmly welcome anyone who chooses to visit worship or to share in congregational life. This is an ideal to which United Methodists have always aspired, in our best and most Christ-like moments. Our teachings and our messages stay the same. All are indeed still welcome at the table of our Lord. And we collaborate in ministry together knowing we still have diversity of perspectives within our Annual Conference on issues surrounding human sexuality.
To those who feel a victory has been won: you are called to be gracious to those who are mourning the decision. Allow space for comments you may consider offensive and choose to “turn the other cheek.” Your friends with whom you disagree are still your friends, and the General Conference decision should not change that. We trust all Arkansas-area United Methodists to share our desire to warmly welcome all persons in worship and community, and we are thankful for that.
If you are one who feels an injustice has been done, take time for self-care and reflection. Remember again that this decision, in large part, reflects the existing practice of our Annual Conference. Do not make hasty decisions about your participation in your local congregation. The people you worship with are still your church family and Arkansas is still your Annual Conference. There is a lot of good we can do together to serve our community and the world.
To our members and participants who are LGBTQIA, your church family loves you as they did before. You are loved and your grief is felt. We believe that you love Jesus. And, we are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus loves you.
All should choose to discuss their convictions and their concerns with a desire to disarm rather than coerce, to connect rather than to judge. We may not feel we are on the same page, yet we are all on a journey to seek both the grace and the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Allow space for someone with whom you disagree to experience God’s presence in you each and every day. May the Peace of Christ be with You,
– Rev. Aubrietta Jones and Rev. Andrew Suite
This letter was originally written for the congregation of FUMC Maumelle and has been adapted for a broader audience.
The theme for this year’s Veritas was 360: Completely Transformed. The weekend focused on not only how we could completely transform our lives to be more God-centered but also the people and environment around us.
The speaker, Tim Palmer, did an amazing job at relating to us. He not only tried to help us develop ways to have a more God-centered view on the world and ourselves, but he also gave some of his personal stories and experiences about how his view has been completely transformed, or when he witnessed someone with a God-centered life.
With the special General Conference so close to Veritas, all 1,400 of us stood in that ballroom and prayed together. We prayed that no matter what decision was made, we would continue to lead with love and openness toward anyone and everyone because that is the Methodist church in which we all grew up. We were all completely transformed in that moment of affirmation to ourselves and everyone else in that room.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best Veritas events I have ever attended. I can’t even give a specific reason why. It was the atmosphere and the people there. It was the worship and hearing all 1,400 voices become one as we sang with the band. It was the connection that we all had together because of other events. It wasn’t just one thing; it was so many little things that we couldn’t pinpoint just one.
Probably my favorite part of Veritas was at the last worship right after communion, Bishop Gary Mueller asked all of the youth who felt a call to ministry to go up to the front, and there were so many that walked up there. It was just a really cool moment as we stood there all supporting each other. Even if we had never met before, we were all at that specific place in our lives, trying to discern a call into ministry. Everyone that went up there had their arms wrapped around each other as we sang one last song, then Bishop Mueller prayed over those people with the rest of the convention center.
It was something new, but for me, it was one of the most memorable parts of Veritas.
– By Shelby Kirk
ACCYM Youth, Greenbrier First UMC
Tim Palmer, speaker at Veritas 360.
For All Seasons led worship during the Veritas weekend.
Bishop Gary Mueller serves communion at Veritas 360.
John Mark Mathis, president of ACCYM, leads a prayer before communion on the last day of Veritas.
Youth participate in yoga during a breakout session at Veritas.
ST. LOUIS – In the wake of the special called session of the General Conference and the passage of the Traditional Plan and a disaffiliation plan that allows churches to more easily leave the denomination, the Connectional Table (CT) encourages United Methodists to take a breath, take time to process what has happened and to be in prayer as we seek to understand what the outcome means for the future of our church.
We call the church to prayer for the grieving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual people and their allies. We ask for prayer for the delegates, bishops, members of the Commission on a Way Forward, the Commission on the General Conference staff, the pages, interpreters, marshals and all others who worked tirelessly to make the Special Session happen. We ask for prayer for all United Methodists around our worldwide connection.
In his opening address as first presider of this General Conference, CT Chair Bishop Christian Alsted noted that the conference was governed not only by Robert’s Rules of Order, but also by Methodism founder John Wesley’s General Rules: do no harm, do good and stay in love with God by using the means of grace. “I believe this is what our fellow United Methodist people expect of us,” Bishop Alsted said. “I believe this is what Jesus Christ expects of us.” These rules must guide us through this time of great change.
“It will take time for us to truly understand and process the impact of what has happened,” said Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, Chief Connectional Ministries Officer of the Connectional Table. “Many are dealing with deep emotions and deep pain. We must now care for one another, pray for our church, and take the time to respond and not react. God loves all of us, no matter who we are and which positions we took. God loves us and is still calling us to be in mission and ministry in the world.”
The Connectional Table will continue the work of discerning and articulating the vision, in collaboration with the Council of Bishops, and stewarding the mission, ministries and resources of The United Methodist Church. We will seek to follow Wesley’s rules to do no harm, do good and to stay in love with God through the means of grace. We will pray for United Methodists and for the future of our Church. And, above all, we will follow Christ’s command to love one another. We urge all United Methodists to do the same.
About the Connectional Table: The Connectional Table works to steward the mission, vision and ministries of The United Methodist Church. For more information, please visit connectionaltable.umc.org.
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
General Conference is over but the work of the Arkansas Annual Conference continues on.
I have prepared a video message for you to view with my thoughts on General Conference and where we should go from here.
I encourage you to watch it and know that your church will continue to worship, your church will continue to serve, and we will continue to be about our work of making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
Center for Communication team. Left to right: Stephen Gideon, Jacob Turner, Day Davis, Caleb Hennington, and Amy Ezell.
The Arkansas Conference Center for Communication brought home multiple awards in a variety of categories at this year’s United Methodist Association of Communicators meeting, Feb. 21 – 22 in St. Louis, Missouri.
At the 2019 meeting, taking place on the days leading up to the Special Session of General Conference, communicators from across the United States Conferences and Central Conferences were able to hear from communication leaders from United Methodist Communications, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and other general agencies within the church.
On Friday night, UMAC hosted a special gala where guests were served a delicious dinner and awards were given out to communicators who had entered the annual competition.
The Arkansas Conference Center for Communication team brought home awards in the following categories:
1st Place – Photojournalism, Caleb Hennington for Women Who Lead
1st Place – Magazine, Caleb Hennington and Stephen Gideon for the Arkansas United Methodist: Living Our Faith
1st Place – Electronic Publication, Caleb Hennington and Stephen Gideon for the Arkansas United Methodist: Living Our Faith
2nd Place – Print and Electronic Design, Stephen Gideon for Comm Con ’18
3rd Place – Print and Electronic Design, Stephen Gideon for the October cover of the Arkansas United Methodist: Living Our Faith magazine.
3rd Place – Website Visual Design, Jacob Turner for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church website.
The Center for Communication was very surprised and pleased to have won awards this year, and we look forward to submitting our work again at next year’s UMAC conference.