What is the current state of the United Methodist denomination?
The global United Methodist denomination is divided regarding the decisions to ordain LGBTQIA+ clergy, and whether weddings of LGBTQIA+ persons can be officiated by UM clergy and in UM churches.
How long has this division been occurring?
The division first became apparent in 1972, when the words “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” were inserted into the UM Social Principles. In the ensuing years, all efforts at compromise or retraction have failed, and in fact, even more restrictive language has been inserted into The UM Book of Discipline, which is the official “rule book” for the denomination.
Isn’t First UMC Evanston open and affirming?
Yes, we are. In 2015 we became a Reconciling Congregation, joining with other UM churches across the United States in the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN). RMN’s primary commitment is to full inclusion of all persons in the United Methodist Church. In 2016, First Church’s elected leadership body, the Church Council, voted to support our clergy in their decisions about who is ready for marriage, and in the equal application of wedding policies to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, the Church Council voted to allow same gender weddings in our church buildings and grounds.
Can’t we just continue to do that?
The 2019 Special General Conference of the global United Methodist Church strengthened the prohibition of such weddings and ordinations, and implemented strict punishments for clergy who violate these clauses in The Book of Discipline. First Church’s clergy and Church Council have published, in writing, their intent to continue our practices of opening our church to all believers.
Why can’t we just leave the denomination and become independent?
The United Methodist Church is a “connectional church.” We are a part of a denomination that has many fibers and threads running through what we do and who we are, almost inextricably connected to all other United Methodist churches around the world. Those connections range from the pensions paid to our pastors, the use of our hymnals and other materials, our support of hurricane and disaster relief, how our pastors are assigned to us, and even the “ownership” of our building and investments.
What are these “plans” we keep hearing about?
Please refer to this link (here) which is a publication by the United Methodist News Service comparing the currently published plans.
How did we get to so many plans?/I thought the plans were voted on last February?
As with any divisive issue, there are lots of opinions about how best to settle any controversy. A number of “groups of like minds” have evolved and presented possible ways to move forward. See the above mentioned link.
When will this finally be over?
The next General Conference is May 5-15, 2020 in Minneapolis. While everyone is hopeful that this issue will finally be settled then, even if a vote is taken to resolve this deadlock, there will be numerous details that have to be worked out, and a timeline by which actions must be taken, or passively accepted over time.
What are other area United Methodist churches doing about this?
The Pastor’s Advisory Team has been in communication and dialog with other area churches, and we are all trying to discern how to move through this. Some are meeting regularly to share ideas and information. The PAT has had representation at those meetings.
What do we tell our friends who inquire about what’s happening to First UMC of Evanston?
First United Methodist Church is a community of Christians inviting all people to grow in their relationship with God and to life their faith in the world. We are a Reconciling Congregation and welcome all inclusive of age, race, education, economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity and special needs.
How can I find out more?
Pastor Grace Imathiu has asked some church members to be her eyes and ears for the congregation on the denominational crisis and how it affects our congregation. This group is called the Pastor’s Advisory Team, and can be reached via email at PAT@faithatfirst.com.