Because It Is Christ's Church ...
March 3, 2019
We have just completed our first of now 12* Post-General Conference 2019 Episcopal Visits that I will be making across our conference between now and the end of April. Today’s initial visit was held at Los Altos UMC. I, along with District Superintendent Shinya Goto and others providing leadership, walked into a full sanctuary and watched as the Narthex and then the choir loft filled up as well. Those providing welcome and hospitality report that more than 500 persons were present.
We shared information from the Special-Called General Conference that just concluded on February 26th, sang hymns of faith, prayed together, heard and responded to questions of concern, and then concluded with Holy Communion. We began from the place of concern, disappointment, fear and anxiety, but ended with joy and hope. Our joy and hope came from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that affirmed for us that God’s love will have the last word.
From the experience of being Church today I would affirm again that the Church does not belong to us. It is Christ’s Church, and because it is Christ’s Church, no one is excluded. I believe that The United Methodist Church has lived in sin too long as it has excluded LGBTQIA persons. There are those who would argue that the Church does not exclude LGBTQIA persons; only those who are practicing homosexuals are excluded from the fullness of life and service in the Church, they would explain. Asking someone to not be who God has made them to be if they want to be a part of the Church is not inclusion – it is homophobia. It is excluding those whom Christ fully includes. It is the sin of setting Christ aside and controlling his Church in ways that violate the love of Christ for ALL of us.
I would also share that I expect all our clergy and all our churches to protect the vulnerable. It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus. As Jesus extended healing, mercy, and grace to those on the margins, those rejected, those who were ostracized and excluded in his day, so we must today stand with the vulnerable. In this moment in the life of The UMC, protecting the vulnerable means standing in solidarity with and protection of our LGBTQIA siblings and their families.
Every single one of our congregations has persons who are LGBTQIA in their church family, whether we are aware of it or not. I would plead with our pastors and congregations to create safe space for them. Pray for them, allow them to share their life story without judgment or rejection, and above all, love them with the love of Christ.
The actions of the General Conference 2019 are now in the hands of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church, which will meet April 23-26. Both the General Conference and the Council of Bishops have asked the Judicial Council for declaratory decisions on whether what the General Conference approved is constitutional or not. While we wait for the decisions of the Judicial Council, we will continue to be the Church, gathering God’s people for worship, Bible study, the nurturing of persons, young and old, unto faith, and for the work of ministering to a hurting world. We are committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
I was asked today by what authority I and other bishops speak on the matter of whether we will be a fully inclusive Church. The only authority I have as a bishop of the Church to call us to be the Church is the spiritual and moral authority extended to me in my consecration as a bishop. I can only point us to Jesus. I will seek to follow Jesus, and pray that we will follow him together.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
*We have decided to add a 12th visit to the schedule – to San Francisco proper. We will work with Bay District Superintendent Staci Current to plan this visit and will announce the date, time, and location as soon as details have been finalized.