Dear St. Lukers,
This week in our denomination, the Council of Bishops shared important news. The first dealt with the recommendation they are presenting to the special called General Conference in February of 2019. This called General Conference will specifically handle decisions on moving forward as a denomination around the understanding of inclusivity for those in the LGBTQ community and their allies.
The Council of Bishops shared the recommendation they are sending to the floor, which is the “One Church Model.” As a part of their report, three plans will be shared to give context to the history of discussion as well as to recognize the variety of voices in our denomination. Bishop Carter has shared his reflections with us in the Florida Conference, you may read HERE the seven basic facts around the decision and the One Church Model. Again, we thank our own St. Luker, Alice Williams for serving on the Commission and devoting the last two years to this difficult and important work.
Other information shared this week was the final votes of constitutional amendments voted on by annual conferences around the world. Three of the five passed, two however failed to meet the minimum requirements of a two-thirds vote. Those two amendments were related to recognizing the equality of gender and the adding the language of “gender, ability and marital status to the current identifications of race, color, national origin, status and economic condition already protected in our constitution. You can read more here.
I share this to show the breadth of theological diversity and the variety of ways our global denomination interprets scripture and understands our Wesleyan tradition. While many have considered our differences to be about one community, the reality is we struggle with inclusivity in multiple ways. As a global church, we have very different international and national contexts. In missional ways, we are highly effective as a global connection; able to eradicate malaria, reduce poverty, provide equal opportunity to education for all. But social and cultural differences and laws around sexuality and gender equality, race and culture can all be obstacles to a more inclusive understanding of leadership and ministry here in the United States. This is the tension we face seeking to live into Wesley’s understanding that the “world is our parish.”
As you will read in the Bishops post, this has been the context for preaching this season, not just here but in United Methodist churches around Florida. How do we begin to listen deeply to one another with empathy, seeking understanding and see one another with hearts of peace? Our Conference leadership asked us to begin holding conversations and dialogues to wrestle with this question in our congregations.
St. Luke’s has been holding these conversations since adopting the 4D Vision in 2012. One strategic vision was to become a congregation that reflected the diversity of Central Florida and God’s Kingdom. We have been very intentional in working toward this goal. Over the next few weeks we will be sharing how we have lived into the 4D Vision and how our next vision will continue the evolution of the work the congregation created.
We are going to continue to live into our Core Values of Acceptance, Hospitality, Community, Discipleship and Service, grounded in the Love of Christ. St. Luke’s will continue the work of living into our strategic vision as we build disciples who build the Kingdom as we worship, connect, grow, serve and commit our lives. There is much work to do, but this is us – this is who we have been since the church was founded, and who we will continue to be. This is God’s vision of the Kingdom, as shared by Jesus in our scripture for Sunday from Luke 14. Jesus tells the story of a man hosting a large dinner and inviting many people, but the end result is not what the host anticipated. Jesus gives us a clue that the Kingdom of God banquet will probably not be at all what we expect. This is the Kingdom we seek to build and reveal. The work is hard, but it’s also beautiful and full of hope.
What can you do:
- Join your clergy and United Methodist brothers and sisters in Praying our Way Forward, which calls for prayer every day from 2:23 – 2:26 p.m., numbers which correspond to the dates of the special session in 2019 (2/23/19 – 2/26/19)
- Ask questions and sit down and talk with any of us on the Executive Leadership Team and Clergy, or our Lay Leaders who serve you as chairpersons of Staff Parish, Church Council, trustees and our Lay Leaders Sharon Somner.
If you have read this far – thanks for the commitment. I did not want us to move forward uninformed. But I also hope you will join us on Sunday to catch your own understanding of this vision of the Kingdom banquet from Luke 14 where all are invited to come and feast.
Grace and Peace,