Our churches continue to empty. Those still full are greying. Clergy do their best from the pulpit and through community outreach. However, pew conditions are buildup results of organized Christian religion perceptions as restrictive, judgmental, unloving, hypocritic and constant infighting for just human conditions regarding slavery, divorce, race, gender, equity, 2nd wives, polygamy, HIV, ageism, disabilities, family structure, clergy-laity dominance and now homosexuality. Majority of American and global youth/young adults “get” these all; especially, acceptance of homosexuals within the majority heterosexual world. People would rather spend time on themes that matter: black lives, homelessness, hunger, greed, domestic violence, public education, drugs, guns, addiction, hate crimes, child trafficking, migration, etc. Putting our house in order is one way to keep those who crossed our UMC thresholds… and to provide authentic hospitality to newbies who dare step into our churches. Deep down, every one of us is a wonderful human being created by a magnificent God.
The Commission on A Way Forward developed plans which they felt would satisfy needs of our denomination. Petitions are being reviewed for their constitutionality and eventual consideration at the Special General Conference in February 2019. Our Council of Bishops recommends the One Church Plan. After studying each thoroughly, I support The Simple Plan -- a centrist response (deemed progressive).
The Simple Plan removes harmful language in eight areas of the Book of Disciplines. Discriminatory language created disharmony in the UMC over four decades ago. Bullying disrupted our Christian discipleship and witness. John Wesley stressed, “Do no harm.” Deleting painful words resolve the denomination’s focus back to God’s mission of service and grace while authentically welcoming our LGBTQ siblings who were perfectly conceived as God’s loving creation. Some of our most committed, generous creative United Methodist stars shine from this part of our family . . . and possibly a few of the next UM geniuses will be birthed from this tree branch. Until our churches, Sunday schools, homes are safe spaces where one can speak truthfully without condemnation and compassionate listening takes place, it is difficult for intimate trusting conversations. We miss opportunities of kinship and support. We miss God’s wisdom through the fray. Ours is an unending journey of a Beloved community.
The Simple Plan preserves resources: time, human talent, cash, property, assets… and enables 2019 General Conference to accomplish peaceful action in record time. The Simple Plan keeps organizational structures in place. It frees bishops, clergy, annual and central conferences, local churches whether to welcome LGBTQIA+ staff, clergy and laity. NO restrictions. NO new language. NO discrimination. NO regional segregation. NO constitutional amendments. NO hundred pages of technical translations. NO policing. NO bullying. NO exceptions. The Simple Plan resets an opportunity for Christian maturity. The Simple Plan impresses God’s abiding love. Passage of The Simple Plan demonstrates Love over fear.
Our denomination deserves unity, diversity and non-conformity. The connection, relational system is our strength! United Methodists are the best first responders when there is global and local crisis. We stay for the long haul with communities. The Simple Plan allows Non-harmful order. The Simple Plan enables United Methodists to live within their civil states without imposing segregation and oppression. The Simple Plan is a thoughtful, prayerful idea that considers all members to remain in and be part of the United Methodist Church. The Simple Plan recognizes that although United Methodists worship and live together with differing views and cultural perspectives we serve as God’s faithful witnesses with the hungry, the poor, the widows, and those living on the margins.
With 5% of national populations likely LGBTQAI+, we need to spread invitations with Christ. Think about their parents, siblings and relatives who need supportive communities. In the USA, 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ with some arriving at shelters as young as age 10. Hate crimes are their highest in the USA these last 4 years against gays, Jews and people of color. Globally, hate crimes may not be even reported. Foster care represents more than 510,000 children with 20% under age 1 majority due to neglect and drugs and 47% from White families, 23% Black and 21% Hispanic families (US Department of Health & Human Services 2017AFCARS Report).
What is our role as communities of faith and hope?
How can we help our families and children?
Pulpit/pew conversations suppress God’s unconditional love regarding everyone’s sexuality. Organized religion started the taboo. Christ-like listening and exchanges can take place as we gracefully discern understandings of sacred sexual intimacy and human relationships. We must find courage to love boldly, to widen the circle of love. Let us not be separated from God’s love. God is always in our heart, mind and soul. Jesus’ actions remind us, “Do not be afraid. I am with you always.” To love God is to love our neighbors, our friends, our enemies, ourselves. We must be kind and love unconditionally. It is our greatest test. Let us discover and thrive to be our best selves, God’s perfect creations.
Be Love. Be Peace. Accept The Simple Plan!
Karen G. Prudente,
2019 General Conference Delegate