A Letter About General Conference

To the people of Signal Mountain UMC,
General Conference has finished its work. I know that some of you followed it very closely and some of you just saw what made the news. I would like to try and fill in a little more of what happened than the news has done. In the simplest version, the traditional plan passed by 53%. Meaning that our current stance on the ordination of openly homosexual persons remains. Our current stance on same sex marriages remains. The traditional plan also included measures meant to strengthen enforcement and conformity to this standard, though here is where it gets more nuanced then the news has said. Parts of the plan, by some measures half its provisions, may violate the constitution of the United Methodist Church. All of our legislation at every General Conference goes through process to make sure it is in compliance with our constitution. The constitutionality of the Traditional Plan and its specific provisions will be addressed by the Judicial Council in late April. Only those parts of the plan that are constitutional will take effect and be added to the Book of Discipline, meaning there is a possibility that, in the end, there will be very little real change.

I know that feelings in our congregation are mixed. They are mixed in almost every church. Some people are happy with the decisions that have been made, some are feeling hurt and sad. The last few days I have seen and heard the full spectrum of emotions from my Sisters and Brothers around the wider denomination. There are many different points of view that make up the United Methodist Church. We are not of the same mind about this issue. We don’t have to be. My expectation as your Pastor is this. Jesus loves all people. The United Methodist Church in the very Book of Discipline we have spent time debating says all people are of sacred worth. I love each of you, I pray for each of you. I expect that this Sunday, like every Sunday, we will come together not of one mind on every issue of faith and practice, but with one heart. One heart that seeks to love God. One heart that seeks to welcome our community. One heart respecting each other, caring for each other and knowing that mutual love and mutual agreement are not the same thing. As Wesley said, “If we may not think alike may we not love alike.” As a body we at Signal Mountain United Methodist Church will continue to honor and respect all the people gathered in our church.

There will be more to say in the coming weeks I’m sure, but I want to leave you with a small thought. I grew up in the United Methodist Church. I never heard about General Conference or the Book of Discipline until I became an adult and felt called to ministry in our denomination. What I remember looking back on my childhood and adolescence in the church was the open table. I remember many different Pastors breaking the bread and lifting the cup, proclaiming the Body of Christ broken and given for all. All. Always all. It was regardless of age, race, denominational affiliation, theological agreement or disagreement, gender, political opinion, marital status, the life you had lived up to that moment it was for ALL. This Sunday, I will stand in front of you and I will think of all those ministers who made the Methodist Church what it is to me. I will honor their memory and memory of those who have served here before me and proclaim one of our central truths. The table is set for ALL.

Please know you can come to me with your thoughts, feelings and questions. Each of you matter to me and to this Church.
In Christ,
Pastor Caleb Pitkin


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