The following declaration was presented to the Western Jurisdiction Fresh United Methodism Summit on Thursday, November 14, 2019. It was received with enthusiasm by those in attendance.
Theological Declaration of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church
And God promised: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young will see visions. Your elders will dream dreams.” (Acts 2:17 CEB)
We believe that God’s Spirit is poured out onto all God’s people. We stand 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.
In view of the decades-long discrimination of our LGBTQIA+ siblings and in light of the Special General Conference 2019, 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. We refuse to limit the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of all God’s beloved children. We stand firm in grace and love.
The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth grappling with divisions. Using the Eucharist, Paul alludes to their divisions but affirms that they are one body:
“Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 NIV)
As one body in Christ, we affirm and pledge to proclaim—
- The power of God’s love and grace to create and uphold an open, affirming, and inclusive church in which all God’s beloved children are welcomed and embraced;
- The new church as a vibrant loving community in which differences of any kind—race, ethnicity, language, culture, sexual identity, gender, ability, nationality—are affirmed as manifestations of God’s abundant and holy creation;
- 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;
- 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;
- A theological task which requires the engagement of Scripture as encountered through the lens of tradition, experience and reason, which allows for a breadth of faithful understandings;
- A church born of the living Word of God, open to the leading of the Holy Spirit through scholarship and life itself;
- A connectional church 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.
In the context of constant disputes and wars between nations and peoples, the 8th century BCE prophet Micah casts a vision of a world where fighting will cease:
In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between many peoples
and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Everyone will sit under their own vine
and under their own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the Lord Almighty has spoken. (Micah 4:1-4 NIV)
Therefore, with Micah we envision a different world and church where we will do everything in our power—
- To avoid doing harm to persons or the creation, specifically to our LGBTQIA+ siblings;
- To resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they manifest themselves, including punitive, mean-spirited ways of engaging with one another, in the church and in the world;
- To repudiate anything that limits and mars the witness of Christ in the world through hurtful discriminatory words and practices.
The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians reminds his community about faith that is grounded in grace:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NRSV)
Claiming this gift of God, we vow to stand strong in the practice of our faith and polity, grounded in our Wesleyan Way of Grace—
- To nurture God’s call in every person;
- To encourage Boards of Ordained Ministry to examine the content of each candidate’s character and the gifts and grace they possess for ministry and not reject a candidate solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity;
- To stand with our bishops as they ordain a new generation of clergy for ministry;
- To celebrate the mystery of love that joins two people together and will continue the prerogative clergy have always had, to say yes—or no—to join couples in holy matrimony;
- To refuse to submit to or process complaints of pastors who marry same-gender couples or of pastors for simply being LGBTQIA+.
God speaks these words to an ancient community living in exile through the 6th century BCE prophet:
“Don’t remember the prior things;
don’t ponder ancient history.
Look! I’m doing a new thing;
now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert,
paths in the wilderness.” (Isaiah 43:18-19 CEB)
Claiming God’s ability to do a new thing in our 21st century context as God has done in every important moment of history, we seek to become—
- The new church God calls us to be through amazing grace—beautiful, global, justice-seeking, faithful, and filled with joy!
- A new church singing together a new, new song which echoes the old, old story of Jesus and his love which we have loved so long!
To the glory of God!