Western Jurisdiction ‘Fresh United Methodism Summit’ Affirms LGBTQ+ Support; Summit Seen as a ‘Movement Moment’ to Help Discern the Future of the Church

And God promised: I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughterswill prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.

(Acts 2:17 CEB)

In the midst of the nearly 50-year struggle over the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons in The United Methodist Church, more than 200 laypersons, clergy, and bishops gathered in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 14-16 for the Western Jurisdiction’s Fresh United Methodism Summit to seek God’s guidance as we prepare for the 2020 General Conference.

The summit was a movement moment in The United Methodist Church. The future of the church will come out of the vision of our younger people, leaders who stepped into the forefront of work of the summit. The diversity of our emerging leaders is future-leaning – gay, straight, persons of color, people representing the richness of life across our region’s millions of square miles. We heard them voicing the hope that out of chaos, something can be born.

“As the Western Jurisdiction’s Leadership Team, we are grateful to the summit’s participants. Their work is a tool to help discern God’s direction for the jurisdiction. It is an expression of love, seeking justice, and a commitment to move forward,” said the Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Leadership Team.

“We see the summit as an important model for the future, where we rely less on formal processes, and put our trust in the movement of the Holy Spirit and the relational connections built through our discernment and work together,” Rev. Pritchard said.

Summit participants affirmed the call to continue working on ending racism and other forms of discrimination that are present throughout the church, and within our jurisdiction. They chose a diverse team of 10, five laity and five clergy, to work on the spirit-filled dreaming for the future that emerged from hours of small group work. Persons under the age of 40 are well represented on the team.  Their conclusions are expected to be part of the work of the July 2020 Jurisdictional Conference.

The summit’s participants affirmed a theological declaration grounded “firmly within the best of our biblical and Wesleyan tradition in order to maintain a witness to the wideness of God’s grace in a broken world in need of Christ’s healing, liberating love.” We are clear in our core affirmations as United Methodists doing ministry in the Western Jurisdiction:

  • We refuse to limit the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of all God’s beloved LGBTQ+ children. We stand firm in grace and love. In light of the 2019 Special General Conference, which approved – by a narrow margin – a plan that was not only largely unconstitutional but also has pushed The United Methodist Church off of its theological foundation, we refuse to yield to a plan that replaces grace with punishment and that abandons robust engagement of scripture to biblical literalism. The decades-long discrimination of our LGBTQ+ siblings must end.
  • We are committed to be a connectional church. We seek to be in vital mission to and with the world, for the transformation of the church and the world, partnering with the Holy Spirit to bring forth justice, peace, and vibrant health for the whole of the creation.
  • We envision a church as a vibrant loving community. Differences of any kind – race, ethnicity, language, culture, sexual identity, gender, nationality – are affirmed as manifestations of God’s abundant and holy creation. We will meet people where they are – from our inner cities to the broad streets of suburbs, around the switchbacks of the mountains and to the distant islands in the ocean. This is what God intends, and what John Wesley modeled for us.
  • We see a faithful church in which the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion, as well as confirmation, ordination, marriage, servant ministries, mission work, and leadership at every level, are open to all who are called by God and affirmed by the church, as witnessed by our Risen Savior and Lord;
  • We embrace the historic doctrine and Wesleyan ecclesiology of The United Methodist Church, rooted and grounded in the Trinity, in which accountability is marked by covenant and grace.

The summit builds on the work of our Western Jurisdiction bishops, who earlier issued the Safe Harbor Declaration, creating safe spaces in our annual conferences for LGBTQ+ clergy and clergy performing same-sex weddings. As the summit ended, more than 6,500 United Methodists in the U.S. and around the globe have signed their support and have urged bishops across the church to join their Western Jurisdiction colleagues.

A number of reports related to the summit are available on the Western Jurisdiction’s web site. Click here to access them.

(The Western Jurisdiction’s Leadership Team is comprised of a representative of the Directors of Connectional Ministry in the seven (regional) Conferences in the jurisdiction, representatives of a number of jurisdictional agencies, the jurisdiction’s five active bishops, and at-large members. The Rev. Donna Pritchard of Portland, Ore., is the chair.)

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