The Salem Tidings

From the Pastor’s Desk

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.   Galatians 3:28

A Note from Pastor Paola:

Our denomination as you may know, is undergoing a great deal turmoil, pain and uncertainty following the special session in February of General Conference where a small majority passed the “traditional plan”. This plan restricts even further the full participation of LGBTQ persons in the life of the church by continuing the ban of same sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ persons.
This past Friday, April 26, the Judicial Council of the UMC (the church’s version of the Supreme Court), ruled on the constitutionality of the various parts of the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference the end of February. As expected, portions were deemed unconstitutional while others were deemed constitutional. Not very surprising! The next General Conference in 2020 will review the portions that were not conclusive.
Those who were hoping the Conference and the Judicial Council would vote to make the United Methodist Church a more welcoming place for LGBTQ persons and their families, are crushed and in a great deal of pain.  And those who supported the Traditional Plan are unclear about the next steps. Some people who supported the traditional plan told me: “It doesn’t feel like a victory.”   How can it be? We are fractured and broken more than ever.
I truly believe that the divisions in the denomination cannot be solved by the Judicial Council nor by any rules and law. This is a matter of a different interpretation of the scripture and a matter of the heart: a common ground can only be found, through conversation, listening, humility and prayer.  Nevertheless, there have been very little of any of these in the past months.
What has happened in the last couple months is that a lot of people, both clergy as well as laity, who never spoke up openly about the subject and maintained a ‘centrist’ position began to speak up openly about welcoming fully LGBTQ persons and families in the church. They speak about their broken hearts as a LGBTQ family member cannot be fully welcomed in the church. They speak about the message we are sending to the young LGBTQ people who increasingly are at high risk to take their own lives. They speak about the growing number of young adult who leave the church because they feel it is judgmental and exclusive, getting further away from Jesus’ welcoming spirit.
So what now?
Let’s remember we are not alone. Most mainline denominations have been or are in the midst of this struggle. Just like any major change in the church (for instance the inclusion of women in full ministry) it takes time, courage to speak the truth, and prayer.
I see many parallels between our time and the early Christian church. The apostle Paul was struggling with many churches who were in the midst of great conflicts based on who should belong and who shouldn’t. There are crucial times in history, ‘Kairos’ times when differences and conflicts need to come to a decision and to action. I believe this is one of them.
It is very possible the United Methodist church will change in the next few years. My hope is we can remain united by allowing the local conferences to make a decision on this matter. It is also possible that one side will leave, or the denomination will dissolve giving birth to two or three new expressions of Methodism out of the one denomination. Meanwhile….
     *We continue to be in ministry. Our faith, our service, our hope in Christ save lives, bring love and compassion to many. Remember we have a higher calling that cannot be put on hold.
     *We continue to warmly welcome all God’s children at Salem as we always did. Remember, before anything else this is God’s church.
     *We continue to study and learn from the early Christian church how to become a faith community where everyone belongs (Galatians 3:28), because Christ gave his blood on the cross to reconcile everyone to God. He made of the two, one. He is our Peace.
     *I am hopeful even though I don’t know the final outcome, because the future belongs to God.
Please join us on Sunday, May 12, after church as we will have a session in the fellowship Hall to understand better what is happening and open a conversation.
Finally, I want you to know I remain the pastor of everyone, no matter where you stand on this or other issues. As your pastor, I’ll care for you, pray for you and love you just as you are. Nevertheless, as your pastor, I will never stop to challenge you to get closer to God, to let go of your old ways and grow in love and compassion toward your neighbor. And so to be clear, this challenge begins with me. See you in church,
Pastor Paola