'United Methodist Rural Advocates' issues statement about 2019 General Conference that ended Feb. 26


The below statement was issued March 6 by United Methodist Rural Advocates. Many United Methodist churches in the Memphis Conference (West Tennessee and Western Kentucky) of The United Methodist Church are in rural locations.

Your United Methodist Rural Advocates are glad that we were able to come together with other United Methodist brothers and sisters in St. Louis to find a way forward in a divisive time in the history of the Wesleyan tradition.

We write to reaffirm our commitment to remain a vital presence advocating for our rural churches in the midst of continuing denominational conversations. We continue to believe that we do not have to agree on all things in order to work together, whether within denominational processes, or with the poor, or for the transformation of our communities. We value our partnership with people of differing opinions and of various faiths who do good and love justice. We choose to be guided by Jesus’ commandment given in John 13:34 (MSG): “A new command I give you: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

After four days the Traditional Plan was passed by General Conference 438 to 384. The Traditional Plan leaves the church’s current stance on marriage and human sexuality intact. The General Conference also passed the Taylor disaffiliation plan that allows for a gracious exit for churches who wish to leave the United Methodist Church. The last significant action of the day was that the body sent the Traditional Plan to the Judicial Council, which will meet in April 2019 for a declaratory decision on its constitutionality. All provisions of the Traditional Plan that are found unconstitutional will not be placed in the Book of Discipline. The parts of the Traditional Plan found to be constitutional will go into effect in January 2020.

We grieve that the General Conference was not able to further resolve the tensions in the United Methodist Connection. Denominationally, we continue to live in a challenging time, a time of uncertainty. However, we are certain that Jesus remains Lord and that our rural churches will remain vital centers of life-giving ministry. As Paul exhorts us in Romans 15: 13 (MSG): “Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!”

Let us be centers of “green hope” in our communities, filling our people with peace and shining the light of Christ on those in need - those without food, those without warm clothes, those without adequate shelter. Let us not just know the Word of God, let us live the Word of God, going out into our communities to offer his life-giving water, and filling the God-shaped hole in people’s hearts that they may thirst no more. In many of our small rural towns and villages, the church is the last thing standing that helps create community. In the midst of denominational uncertainty, let us focus on our founder, Jesus, and do as He would do. Let us go out into our broken communities and bring warmth, bring healing, and bring a new way - the way of loving our neighbors and lifting them up.