The Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church gathered in St. Louis, MO February 24-26, 2019 to determine a way forward around issues that have been dividing our global church. Over 800 delegates from around the world gathered for 5 days to vote on proposed plans about possible changes to our Book of Discipline and/or our organizational structure. The Council of Bishops had recommended that we adopt the “One Church Plan” which would have allowed for congregations and conferences to be in mission and ministry with all persons, particularly members of the LGBTQI+ community in whatever way they deemed appropriate to their religious beliefs. The One Church Plan was voted down by the delegates by a simple majority. The difference was 26 votes. The delegates approved the “Traditional Plan” by 28 votes, with 85% of the votes coming from outside the US. The Traditional Plan “puts teeth” on our Book of Discipline by taking a stand against the inclusion of LGBQI+ members in ministry and marriage. On 2 different occasions our Judicial Council (the Supreme Court of the UMC) has ruled that about 60% of the Traditional Plan in its core aspect is unconstitutional. This means that even though the Traditional Plan was passed by the delegates of General Conference it still needs to be sent to the Judicial Council for a third ruling. It will most likely take several months to receive those rulings, so in the mean time the denomination will continue in its current stand.
Here in the Greater NJ Annual Conference we recognize that we are all going on to perfection, and that all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. God’s amazing grace is available for all people, and God calls us to serve the lost and the least, the marginalized and the outcast. I’ve often said that the church is the only organization that exists for those who aren’t yet members.
In a letter to our churches this morning our GNJ Bishop, John Schol wrote these words:
GNJ is clearly a model for our church for how to honor difference and in the midst of difference to respect one another. GNJ is a One Church Plan conference that recognizes that we are in ministry with LGBTQ people in different ways. I came away from this General Conference appreciating even more the rich diversity and different expressions of GNJ. Thank you for your continued example of Christ-like love and grace in the midst of difference. You make me proud to be your bishop.
I call upon all of our clergy and congregations to dedicate themselves to a season of prayer and to be the welcoming congregation that I have experienced you to be.
We are a One Church Conference where churches hold different beliefs and understandings and engage in different ministries with gays and lesbians. I will lead so that each of our congregations and clergy will have different expressions and ministries and yet serve one God, one Lord Jesus Christ and one mission – to transform the world as we make disciples and grow vital congregations.
I will be a bishop of the whole church and all of our people.
On March 16, 2019 we will meet in an annual conference special session to learn more about the actions of General Conference, how we will move together in mission and what we can do to work together and move forward.
These are challenging days for the church. We are blessed to have creative, resourceful and whole leaders who will guide us through this time.
Thank you for your service and participation in The United Methodist Church. We need you.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey
Thank you dear friends for taking the time to read this email and to continue in prayer for The United Methodist Church
UMC @ Newfoundland
P.O. Box 288
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Newfoundland, NJ 07435