Learn from our Past.

photo credit: “Entreaberta” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Beira, Moçambique

photo credit: “Entreaberta” by Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Beira, Moçambique

In 1939, the merger that created the Methodist Church also created a separate jurisdiction based entirely on race.  Almost immediately, attempts began to eliminate the Central Jurisdiction. In 1956, the General Conference designated a commission to study racial segregation in the UMC. Still, it took until 1972 to pass a constitutional amendment to eliminate structure based on race.

We look back on the Central Jurisdiction years as a shameful period when the Methodist Church inflicted deep harm on people simply because they were a different race. I have often wondered how people could twist the scriptures into verbal violence against others just because of the color of their skin. But all I need for illustration is how some in the church currently speak of my LGBTQ family.  It’s like déjà vu. 

We have an opportunity to learn from our past and not make the same mistakes as a General Conference in 2019. This time, we can truly mean it when we say we follow John Wesley’s rule to “do no harm.”  We can mean it when we profess to love one another. We can vote to have an inclusive church, one that does not codify discrimination or set apart some places for acceptance and some for continued exclusion. We can remove words that seek to judge persons as unworthy of full membership in God’s church, and we can do it unconditionally.

As a General Conference delegate, I do not want to look back upon 2019 as another lamentable time in UMC history when we inflicted pain. I do not want to be part of a vote that people in the future will look back upon as shameful.  For that reason, I support The Simple Plan.  It removes the words that cast judgment and creates no additional language to continue to fight over.  Nobody is forced to make decisions they aren’t ready to make, or to find other conferences, or to sign pledges. Our pastors and churches can get back to the work they were called to do.

The truth is I was never given authority to judge others, or decide who is worthy of God’s grace.  I am commanded to love unconditionally. That is why I support The Simple Plan.  

Elisa Gatz,
Conference Co-Lay Leader and Chair of the Northern Illinois Delegation to the 2019 General Conference