2019 Special Session of the General Conference
On February 23–26 in St. Louis, Missouri, a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church met. The purpose of this session was to receive and act on the reports from the “Commission on a Way Forward” that examined paragraphs in the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explored options to strengthen the unity of the church.
The information below is intended to help the congregation process the work of the Special Session as well as to provide tools needed to evaluate news sources.
A letter to the congregation from Pastor Chris:
Beloved children of God,
I cannot fully express how grateful I am for the prayers and expressions of love I received from Gary Church members and other parts of the Christian community during the recent tumultuous Special Called Session of The United Methodist Church to address our divisions regarding Human Sexuality.
By a vote of 438-384 General Conference approved what is known as the Traditional Plan, the closest margin in our denomination’s history since the first statement was introduced in 1972. However, the majority of the petitions within the plan were ruled unconstitutional for violating parts of the Book of Discipline or for illegality (a technical term within our denomination). The entire document as amended and approved has also been referred to the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision and ruling. If ruled constitutional, it would take effect January 1, 2020 but how much of the plan will take effect is unknown. The language in the Traditional Plan may require discernment by the Northern Illinois Conference of The United Methodist Church, of which Gary Church is a part, regarding how to move forward following the General Conference decision.
After General Conference the church remains divided and the decision of General Conference illustrates that we are "not of one mind" on this issue. This is true of all denominations, non-denominational, and evangelical churches alike. Several denominations have experienced division over human sexuality in recent years. These divisions have caused great harm to the body of Christ and especially to our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters in Christ, the larger LGBTQIA community, their families, friends, and allies. To those wounded by our words and our actions, please know that you are beloved children of God and I hold you in my heart.
As a delegate to General Conference I can unequivocally state that our debates at General Conference have violated Jesus’ love commandment and Wesley’s admonition to do no harm. We have wounded one another and grieved the heart of Christ who calls us to love one another (John 15:12), calls us to unity and prayed for our unity that the world might believe (John 17:21). We are all beloved children of God and created in God’s image and likeness.
To that end, as pastor, during Lent, I will be entering a season of fasting, prayer, and repentance. I invite you as members of the Gary Church family to join me and approach this season in prayer for our congregation, our denomination, and the Church universal (please consult your physician regarding fasting). With humility, I also implore you to not repeat the words and actions of our General Conference or cause harm, intentionally or unintentionally, to one another. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:9b-10).
I will address the topic on Sunday, March 10 at both worship services and will give a General Conference report at our next Church Council.
Rev. Dr. Chris Pierson
How can I learn more about the 2019 Special Session and what it could mean for the United Methodist Church?
Visit umc.org for articles, particularly: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/what-happened-and-what-didnt-at-general-conference-2019
Three debriefings were held across the Northern Illinois Conference. If you were not able to attend, the session held at Barrington UMC was recorded and is available to watch here.
What are some of the responses?
A Message from Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, Jr., president of the Council of Bishops: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/president-of-council-of-bishops-speaks-after-general-conference-2019
What is happening next?
The Judicial Council of the UMC will gather April 23-26 in Evanston, IL to rule on the constitutionality of all legislation except the pension matters.
In June at the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, there will be discussion of the General Conference and the Judicial Council ruling.
We will update this page when additional information is available.