General Conference update
Many of you read or heard the news coverage on Friday, January 3rd, related to the United Methodist Church. Sixteen United Methodists representing progressive, centrists and conservative interest groups and caucuses indicate they will submit a plan to General Conference this May which would create a “spin off” traditional-conservative Methodist denomination.
This is meant to address the impasse the denomination has regarding the issues of human sexuality. Under this proposed plan, the current United Methodist denomination would continue as the “default.” Central Conferences (this would be Conferences in Africa or the Philippines, for example), Annual Conferences (like Virginia), and local churches choosing to exit to the new traditional-conservative group would be allowed to leave with all property and assets. The remaining United Methodist Church would terminate restrictive rules related to LGBTQ persons and be left with the bureaucracy, boards and agencies. No local church would be required to vote, only those desiring to exit.
Keep in mind, this has not been voted upon at General Conference, or even been officially submitted. Nor has it been reviewed by the Judicial Council. There are lots of unanswered questions, and already the “I love it, I hate it” choruses can be heard. The secular media, at times, has mistakenly treated this as a “done deal.” While key influencers have birthed this plan, I want to urge caution in making future predictions or assumptions at this point. Remember the grave yard of pre General Conference predictions has a large population. This proposed plan from the Sixteen could pass, be amended, substituted, something else happen entirely, or nothing. Additionally, I want you to be cautious of rumors, or mistake social media rants as facts
Rev. Pamela Kipps and I are committed to keeping you up to date as reliable information becomes available. Here’s what else I want you to know: your pastors will not get emotionally wrapped “around the axle” going forward. We believe a gift we can give Fairfax Church is a non-anxious presence. When, and if, decisions need to be made in the future we will do so with much prayer and calm heads. Further, and I know this will not be well received by some, as all this is navigated, your pastors will keep our promises made at our ordination or licensing. We believe breaking holy covenants, even when personal upset is high, does not help foster trust and healthy functioning going forward.
I realize, through many conversations, there are strong feelings on all sides of these type issues. And, I acknowledge many of you perhaps find this interesting, but personally don’t have a dog in the fight. Still, I ENCOURAGE you all to keep working together to make Fairfax Church a vital community of faith. No matter what happens, or doesn’t happen, what the United Methodist Church does is a moot point if Fairfax Church hasn’t been faithful to Christ in loving our neighbors. Personally, I am not going to sit around in limbo and wait for a denomination to get its act together to be faithful to Jesus Christ, and I hope you won’t either.
This week, the homeless are living with us as guests. In one week another team returns to Honduras to be part of the solution at “ground zero” in the great immigration debate. We have helped begin New Life International Church, which is now the fastest growing new United Methodist Church in Virginia in decades. And, many long-time observers of FUMC tell me WE are loving people outside the church walls more than ever. I am proud of this, and more, and I hope you are, too. You may feel great about being in a United Methodist Church, or not. Or you really don’t think about it. I’m sure not trying to drag you into a scrap you haven’t chosen. However, I ask you all to continue to make this a great church.
Times have changed. This is not your grandpa’s church era. However, I want you to know your pastors love this church and look forward to working with you even in unchartered territory. If you believe you must form an opinion regarding what lies ahead, I am personally asking you to prayerfully do that through the lens of your local church, Fairfax. Forgive me if this sounds prideful, but I believe we are better than much of what swirls around us. I will keep you up-to-date with real and honest information. Please pray for your pastors. We care for a faithful, delightful, strong and complex congregation. And we promise to continue to pray for you.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. David J. Bonney