Response to the UMC Special General Conference

Beloved Community,

It is with a heavy heart that we, your pastors, write to you today to share and reflect on the events of the Special General Conference that took place in St. Louis this week and ended last evening.
On the table was an opportunity for our denomination to take an enormous step forward in making space for LGBTQ Christians in our churches, by removing the hurtful and divisive language that has declared homosexuality incompatible with Christian teachings and which prohibits same-sex weddings in our churches and the ordination of LGBTQ persons. Instead, the body of delegates chose to pass the Traditionalist plan, which reaffirmed the restrictions and increased the penalties for those that do not abide.
The plan that they passed, however, was largely declared unconstitutional. It has been referred to our Judicial Council for review; that body will meet in April to make a ruling on which parts of the plan, if any, will remain in effect.

What does this mean?

For the larger denomination, it is unclear. This is not over, and it is not fully settled. The legislation does not take effect immediately. Much will depend on the Judicial Council’s ruling. And so we wait.

This Saturday, March 2, at 10am

Trinity United Methodist Church
(1581 Cambridge Blvd, 43212)
Our Bishop Gregory Palmer will host a simulcast to talk with us about the implications and help us to understand more fully. Join Pastor Karen that morning and other Hilliard UMC folks to learn more.

What does this mean for Hilliard UMC?

Rest assured, nothing about what happened at General Conference will change our commitment to loving ALL of God’s people… no matter what.
Hilliard United Methodist Church has lived her Methodist roots well, standing on the side of the oppressed from the days of Rev. John Adams, when we relocated from the center of town out to the country where we stand today. Leadership across the decades has reinforced that same sense of God’s love for all people — that all means all. At one time, the only African-American family in Hilliard at the time attended here. They were genuinely welcomed, and some members, in solidarity with them, severed their community pool membership because at the time, that family was not welcome there. Eventually the tide changed, and they could swim. That’s being ambassadors for justice, friends.
When Warehouse 839 was birthed in 2003, an audacious declaration of God’s Unconditional Acceptancebecame a guiding principle. If all means all, then we expect to have a big tent — moderates, liberals/progressives, conservatives/traditionalists, and any other label you can think of.
The only label that matters here is Beloved Child of God.
In the fall of 2016, we painted an emblem on our parking lot, stating that God Loves You No Matter What. The love on which we place such a high value is deep, genuine, true love, even when it’s hard. It’s not the stuff of sappy, sentimental, greeting cards… but love that endures through the ups and downs, even through the differences and polarities of life. GOD LOVES YOU NO MATTER WHAT. We remain committed to being a place that doesn’t insist that we all have to think alike, even on this issue, but instead remain focused on this call to love.
While we have sought to listen as much as we can to the stories and experiences of our LGBTQ friends and allies, we do not pretend to fully understand the depth of pain that this has caused many of you. We know it has raised some difficult questions and even caused some of you to re-live some past trauma. We love you. We honor you. We grieve with you. And we stand with you.  We endeavor to do you no harm, and in fact to help to heal harm that has been caused.
God has uniquely and wonderfully gifted each one of you. Your presence enriches and enhances our life together. You are important to us, and we need you in order to survive. Though the larger denomination is wrestling still, we are settled in the truth that you are a part of God’s “kin-dom” here, and that we are, indeed, together in Christ.
In the midst of yesterday afternoon, as we were still waiting for the outcome, one of our staff members received an email from a family looking for a church. One of the family members is part of the LGBTQ community. They wondered if they would find a place of welcome here. When our staff member assured them that they would, they teared up with relief. “It’s been so hard finding somewhere that would accept our family,” they said.
In the days ahead, we will counsel with those who are struggling, we will pray with those in need of healing, and we will weep for the deep hurt that this has caused for so many people in our community and beyond. We will continue to be the church. And we will continue to operate from a place of love. When this family arrives in our church, they will find a loving and welcoming place.

TONIGHT

Wednesday, February 27, from 6:30-7:30pm
following Community Supper
We will gather in the Social Hall to take some moments to further explain what has happened, what this may mean, and to reinforce our commitment to continue being a church of love for all people. Come and gather for support and encouragement.
Our Engaging the Bible class, which would normally meet at 6:30, will meet instead from 7:30-8:30. The text is quite relevant to this moment, and all are invited to come and read Scripture and find God’s presence and love.
For those who are occupied at 6:30, we will be available again at 8:30 to meet with folks and share in conversation and connection.
For those of you who want to take action, here are some ways to respond…
  • TONIGHT, join Pastor April from 4-5:30pm and 6-6:30pm, to deliver the remaining LoveFEST cards to places in our community as a public witness to our call to be a Church of LOVE. Text me if you are planning to come so I can ensure I don’t miss you. (614.406.5645)
  • TONIGHT, from 5:30p-8:30p – come and MAKE cards to be mailed to every family in our congregation with an LGBTQ member… which will highlight our love and care for each of them. Make extras that people could take with them after church on Sunday to hand deliver to people who may be hurting from this decision.
  • Sign on to the Open Letter from the Reconciling Ministries Network, which shares your commitment to continue creating spaces of love and grace and working for justice for LGBTQ people. You do not need to be part of a reconciling church to do this. You can sign as an individual.
  • Become a Reconciling United Methodist. This is a personal declaration of your support for the LGBTQ community. https://rmnetwork.org/
  • Join us on Tuesday, March 12, at 7pm for our next Church Council meeting. We will discuss next steps as a congregation.
  • Be here in worship with us on Sunday. We’ll celebrate communion and remember how much we need each other, how much we love each other.
Our hearts are so filled with love for all of you. May God’s love and grace surround each of us in these days ahead.
April Blaine                                                                               Karen Muntzing
Lead Pastor                                                                                Executive Pastor
www.hilliardumc.org

God loves you no matter what!