Dear Beloved Morrow First UMC Family,

I greet you with a heart full of gratitude and humility as I share reflections from the recently concluded 2020 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. This was a highly expected and prayed for Conference. The reports I am hearing from delegates is that the presence and move of the Holy Spirit was felt by the delegates and guests and reflected in the decisions the General Conference made.

Through prayer, discernment, collaboration, and even through moments of disagreement, the delegates displayed unwavering commitment to God and to our shared mission to be carriers of Jesus Christ’s mission and ministry on earth. This journey was not devoid of challenges, yet it was marked by a collective desire to address the wounds caused by division, disaffiliation, and discrimination that have afflicted our denomination.

Among the decisions made by the General Conference, here are some of the highlights that cause us to be hopeful about the future of our church:

  1. We voted to become a church that can wholly lean into its contextual needs through Worldwide Regionalization. You’ll hear a lot more about this in the days to come.
  2. We have committed to racial justice through our constitutional law, denominational strategic priorities, and the budget.
  3. Updated Social Principles, after more than 12 years of work, guide our witness in the world.
  4. Domestic violence is now a chargeable offense.
  5. We renewed and strengthened our commitment and work with Maternal Health in the US and around the world.
  6. We granted Sacramental Rights to Deacons.
  7. We officially apologized to victims of sexual abuse in the church and strengthened our commitment to the prevention of such abuse.
  8. We reduced the number of U.S. Bishops and approved a deeply streamlined denominational budget.
  9. We approved full communion with the Moravian and Episcopal Churches.
  10. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone became the first African American woman to lead the Council of Bishops.

 

Along with those decisions the General Conference, over 93% majority, voted to remove the prohibition in the Book of Discipline for “self-avowed practicing homosexual” to be ordained and serve in leadership in the life of the church. This decision signals a profound shift in our denomination’s stance on inclusivity. While this decision has been celebrated by many as a step towards greater love and acceptance, we recognize that it also evokes a range of emotions, including grief and uncertainty, for others within our faith community.

Amidst these changes, let us hold fast to the timeless commandment of Jesus to love one another. Let us heed the wisdom of John Wesley, who reminded us, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.” Our response to these shifts must be grounded in love, compassion, and a deep commitment to honoring the diversity of experiences and perspectives within our congregation.

What does this mean for Morrow First UMC? It means that we have an opportunity to embody the inclusive love of Christ more fully. It means that we can extend hospitality and acceptance to all who seek refuge within our church’s walls.

The leadership of the church has started an ongoing conversation on how to better witness to our faith to our community while understanding that not all of us think alike, but we all share the love of Christ.

We do not expect any significant change in the current practice of our church and clergy, but we hope and pray the Holy Spirit will continue to move us to serve our community as we have always done and lead people to experience the love of Jesus Christ as we have always done.

As we navigate these changes, let us engage in thoughtful discernment, guided by the Holy Spirit, and seek to faithfully live out our witness in the world.

The road ahead may be marked by uncertainty, but it is also illuminated by the light of hope and possibility. Together, as a faith community, let us embrace this journey with courage and grace, trusting in God’s guiding hand.

I hope you’ll take a moment to watch these videos that show a little of what happened at the General Conference, and the continued conversation led by our Bishop, Robin Dease:

General Conference wrap-up video Bishop Dease’s Message Dinner conversation with Bishop Dease

In closing, I want to express my deep gratitude for the privilege of serving as your pastor. It is an honor to walk alongside each of you on this journey of faith.

With love and blessings,
Nelson M. Furtado Jr.
Pastor of Morrow First UMC