Pastor's Blogby Rev. Kevin Miller
Feel free to read and comment as I share my thoughts on a variety of topics that I hope you find interesting or uplifting.
AN OPEN LETTER TO WHOEVER HAPPENS TO READ THIS…
From: Kevin T. Miller, ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church since 2006, currently serving as Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Valparaiso, Indiana
The United Methodist General Conference held last week in St. Louis has come to a close, and the last few days have gone…well, I hate to say it, but I told you so:
If you are not aware, after much debate – which was rarely civil and often embarrassingly contentious – the delegates (representing churches on five continents) voted to adopt the “Traditional Plan” which maintains the language of the UM Discipline that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and prohibits self-avowed homosexuals from being ordained as clergy as well as our sanctuaries being used for same-sex weddings. Clergy are also prohibited from officiating in such ceremonies.
This section of the Discipline has been debated with passion and conviction at every General Conference since 1972 (the UMC was created in 1968 by a merger of the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church). But, regardless of where you fall on this particular issue, what has never been debated is what we still hold to be a non-negotiable truth: All persons are of sacred worth, created in the image of God.
If in any way, this decision has hurt you or made you feel that you are “less than” anyone else, know that your value to God through Jesus Christ has no boundaries; know that you truly are a person of sacred worth and you matter to God; you matter to the church, and you matter to me. No matter what decision is made in any area of General Conference, this will always be non-negotiably true.
One of the challenges that comes with being the Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Valparaiso, Indiana is the wide diversity of theology and thought in the pews. Since the decision, I have had conversations with some who enthusiastically support the vote; with some who strongly disagree with the decision, and with a few who are personally devastated and are rethinking their commitment to this church.
Interesting factoid: The diversity of this church – more so than any church I’ve been connected with – reflects the diversity of the global United Methodist Church. And to me, that is a strength. If General Conference proved anything, it is that there is a wide diversity of deeply held opinions. We are a small part of a global church, which includes the growing church in Africa, where homosexuality is a crime in 37 countries. I’m not saying this is right; I’m pointing it out as a reality. We are part of a world-wide ministry which means we stand with and support churches doing ministry in completely different contexts than our own.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, is often (incorrectly) attributed with writing, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things love.” This thought didn’t originate with Wesley, but it is powerful and applicable for us in the church in 2019. So what is essential? I believe four things are absolutely essential in today’s church:
This should define us as a people and as a church. Let us continue to be about the essential work of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
In a spirit of collaboration, peace, unity and love,