Message from Our Peace Lay Leader
For the past three years, the global United Methodist Church has undertaken the unprecedented mission of collectively praying, studying, evaluating, and conversing about how to move forward when our membership is deeply divided over the issue of ordaining openly gay clergy and conducting same-sex marriage. While the Book of Disciple affirms the sacred worth of all people, it does prohibit those specific conditions in the life of our church. This historic undertaking culminated in the special General Conference that was held in February in St. Louis where, by a narrow vote, the Traditional Plan was passed. The Traditional Plan maintains the existing wording in the Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality and strengthens the penalties for those clergy who disobey them.
On the surface, it appears that nothing has changed. It’s business as usual in the United Methodist Church. In many respects that is true:
  • our mission remains the same—to make disciples for Jesus Christ;
  • our Methodist doctrine of grace remains the same—we believe that salvation is available to all;
  • Peace church remains the same—a place where all people are welcome and valued as children of the Living God;
  • Most importantly, our God remains the same—the Creator who created us all in His image and for his divine purpose.
But some things have changed. We must acknowledge that there are those among us who are devastated by this news. Those who prayed that the church would open doors to greater inclusion for those in the LGBTQ community who feel called to ordained ministry or want to be married in their home church by their own pastor. Those who read in scripture that we are all sinners and are called not to judge but to love. Those who feel that their very identity has been denied by the church and deemed “incompatible with Christian teaching.” For these fellow Christians this is a time of grieving, and we must acknowledge their pain and surround them with our love and care. To quote the poet John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” The Apostle Paul said it this way: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.
In preparation for this moment, Julie Chatfield (Children’s Ministry Director) and I led three POV sessions, and in each one we saw people who love each other and love this church, even though they did not always agree. Even though some of us are disappointed with the larger denomination, we are so very blessed to be in a church like Peace where we celebrate diversity and practice inclusion. Let us practice empathy with one another and follow the words of Paul in Romans 12: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
We know that for some of you this vote affirms your reading of scripture. We also know that for some of you this vote is causing you to question your membership in this denomination whose motto is “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” Let us engage in a period of healing, of empathetic dialogue, and of hopeful prayer. Let’s focus on the mission of Peace Church to be a loving community of faith where everyone is welcomed and where everyone’s spiritual gifts are honored for building the Kingdom of God in this place. Let us put our trust and faith not in human institutions but in Almighty God.  Scripture tells us to be still and attentive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Let me just say that the dust has not yet settled after the General Conference. There are still aspects of the Traditional Plan that are being evaluated. There are many more questions than there are answers, and it could take a while before everything is known.
Here at Peace we have assembled a team to discuss the way forward for our church in light of the vote. In the meantime, we know that many of you have questions. I would invite you to write your questions on the card in your Peace Connection and indicate whether you would like to be personally contacted with a response. Gary Daniel (Church Council Chairperson) and I will be available after the service if you would like to speak with us or pray with us.
-Cindy Wheatley, Peace Lay Leader