This week, as you may have heard, General Conference has been delayed in meeting. Having been scheduled to meet last year but pushed back to this year because of COVID-19, the Conference has once again been delayed due to reasons surrounding COVID. There is much information, opinion, and blame floating around the Church as to why the Conference is not meeting. One thing worth noting is gathering a global Church is quite complicated in a COVID world. While many places are moving past COVID, there are many countries in which COVID is still wreaking havoc and access to vaccination and proper medical care isn’t available. Moreover, travel is quite complicated depending on where one is traveling from and if visas can even be acquired. Furthermore, access to technology (of which many of us take for granted) isn’t widely available either.
But the reason emotions are riding high in the Church is because the main issue facing General Conference is the issue around sexuality. Many thought this General Conference would be the one in which those in disagreement could finally separate from the denomination over irreconcilable differences surrounding varied viewpoints regarding sexuality. In fact, given the delay, the Global Methodist Church (representing the conservative church) has announced that they will go ahead and form their own denomination within the next month even though General Conference is not meeting. In other words, they are not even going to wait to meet in 2024 when the General Conference has been rescheduled. They would rather just leave.
I think what saddens me the most regarding this whole situation is the decision of separation. While it has been brewing for years, such dissolution only reflects the current state of our culture. Our culture is deeply divided and the solution offered is not to play in the same sandbox anymore. It is to throw blame to the other side and prop up one’s own opinion as Gospel. Outsiders look at the Church and only see a reflection of the wider culture. We offer no alternative to the world. Is it possible to offer a third option? Is it still possible to show what true community can look like in when we disagree?
It doesn’t seem possible on a global level at this point. But I believe it is possible on a local level and possible among us. We all come different walks of life and different opinions. Yet, it is possible to show how the love of God can allow us to remain as one, with one mission and offer a different picture to the world than fragmentation. May God continue to lead us down a faithful path together.
Rev. Nathan Kilbourne