A Pastoral Letter

A Pastoral Letter for the FUMCCV family regarding the Special Session of General Conference
 
Today the delegates of the Special General Conference of the UMC passed the Traditional Plan by a vote of 53%. My day has been consumed with this action and subsequent conversations. I sat to write this response many times but the words are hard to come by to capture the magnitude of this day as a United Methodist. You might say I was at a loss for words, and those of you that know me, know the improbability of me being short on words. Finally, I decided that I would simply share my day and my emotions with you.
My day began with the usual Tuesday morning worship planning meeting with our program staff. It was not an easy task to plan for this coming Sunday since we did not yet know the outcome of the Special Session of General Conference. We did know the probable outcome of a vote that endorsed the Traditional Plan, a plan that could drastically change the nature of the UMC and FUMCCV. Honestly, we did not accomplish much in this meeting that eventually ended with a time of tear filled prayer (and I am not usually the tearful sort), but today the fracture of the denomination that we love was fully evident and a cause for tears.
As the day progressed the votes were counted and the votes were painful:
  • votes were passed to protect the financial stability of pastors desiring to leave the denomination
  • votes were passed to strengthen language prohibiting ministry to and from members of the LBGTQ community
  • votes were passed to assist congregations to leave the denomination
As the votes were counted and the news spread the calls, emails and texts began to arrive in my inbox. Everyone wanted to know what this meant, specifically what these votes meant for FUMCCV. The most painful questions came from the members of our FUMCCV family who identify as LGBTQ — they were asking me, their pastor, if given these votes from the General Conference they would still be welcome at FUMCCV this coming Sunday. Can you imagine that……having to ask your Pastor whether your family was welcome to attend their church this weekend?
I have been your Pastor for nine years now and have come to know the rich history and powerful ministry of this congregation that stands 125+ years old.
  • I have heard stories of how our church began because farming families in the south were separated from the church in the far northern regions of National City due to floods so we started a church to make sure those folks knew they too were welcome.
  • I have heard stories of Vietnamese families sponsored and adopted by FUMCCV following the Vietnam War letting these families know they too were welcome.
  • I have heard stories and served this congregation as we reached Spanish speaking families who did not always find welcome in our community but knew they were always welcome at FUMCCV.
These stories, and others, are consistent with my experience of a congregation who, for decades, has been open and affirming to persons who identify as LGBTQ.
  • We have welcomed the children of same gender couples into our PreSchool when other local church PreSchools turned them away
  • We have had staff people and lay leadership who were hired and nominated for their gifts & abilities when other churches turned them away due to their sexual preference.
  • We have walked with families as they nurtured their children through the minefields of gender identity
  • We have provided spiritual home to people who have been turned away, outcast, demonized and ostracized by other churches and the world because they identify as LGBTQ.
Honestly, when I was appointed as your Pastor in the summer of 2010 and discovered that you were this kind of community I was humbled to have the opportunity to serve alongside you as a welcome voice to a hurting world. I know some of you are especially hurting now because of these decisions.
  • You are the LGBTQ folks who are identified as incompatible with Christian teaching by the votes of our Denomination
  • You are the parents of Gay and Lesbian children
  • You are the grandparents of children born and raised into LGBTQ families
  • You are the allies of LGBTQ brothers and sisters simply wanting a spiritual home
As your Pastor, let me just say YES, YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ARE WELCOME HERE AT FUMCCV, all are welcome here at FUMCCV, because when the Gospel says that all are welcome, we believe that means ALL ARE WELCOME. There is great uncertainty about what will happen with the denomination and let me be the first to say that is distressing. Many of the petitions that were passed at General Conference have already been found by our Church Court to be unconstitutional, which means they may never go into affect. There promises to be multiple years of transition ahead where votes may be nullified due to unconstitutionally, new conservative or progressive denominations are established and new votes perhaps are taken. There is much uncertainty at the denominational level.
There is no uncertainty about how we will proceed at FUMCCV.
  • We will continue to be a church that welcomes all because Jesus welcomed all
  • We will continue to serve the least, lost and lowest because Jesus served the least, lost and lowest
  • We will continue to be a healing presence in the world because Jesus was the great physician
  • We will continue to be a means of grace for everyone seeking God because God is grace
  • We will continue to make new and stronger disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world because that is what our Lord asked of us
I invite you, I implore you, to show up in church this coming Sunday (8 am, 930 am, 11 am). Your presence will tell the others in the room and the world that you believe it when the scriptures say in Romans 8, “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” You showing up this Sunday is a statement about who were are at FUMCCV. We are FUMCCV Strong and with the strength of our church family and the grace of God, who can stand in our way? This Sunday let us be the church together….perhaps not always in agreement about all things but always in agreement that God loves all.
 
It has been a long day and I end this day with you all in my prayers,
 
Blessings,
Pastor Brian
 
ps. Click here to find a plethora of information about the Special Session of General Conference
pss. please forward this email to everyone you know that has ever been a part of FUMCCV so that they too can join us in body or spirit this coming Sunday