Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño made the first of 12 Post-General Conference Episcopal Visits on Sunday, March 3, visiting Los Altos United Methodist Church with some members of the California-Nevada delegation to General Conference and other key leaders.
In announcing the visits, the bishop wrote that the purpose would be “to inform our clergy and congregations about the actions of the General Conference and the implications for our conference and denomination,” adding, “These visits will also be times of prayer and seeking God's way forward for our ministry in the California-Nevada Conference.”
The sanctuary at Los Altos was packed and so was an overflow space: 575 people attended, some of them sitting in the choir loft, and two extra parking lots were required to accommodate vehicles. At the beginning, a sense of nervous energy pervaded. By the end, a lifting had taken place and people seemed comforted and inspired.
The bishop began by confessing, “We have lived in sin, the sin of exclusion. We are a broken community of faith around the world,” but promised, “While we are committed to order and discipline, we are a people of grace above all things. While we respect order and law, we understand that every circumstance is different. It was critical for us bishops to say, ‘we see your pain … and we walk with you.
“We are not leaving The United Methodist Church,” she added. “That is the stand of your bishop and the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction.”
Bishop Carcaño explained that the action General Conference 2019 took in passing the Traditional Plan and a petition that would allow another means for churches to leave the denomination, beyond what already is provided for in the Book of Discipline, the constitutionality of that legislation is in doubt. The Judicial Council of the Church will meet April 23-26 and it will not be until the council issues its ruling that the impact of General Conference can be determined. In the meantime, the conference’s Cabinet and Core Team will remain in deep conversation while continuing to study the situation.
“I ask you to do the same and share with us,” the bishop said, and asked rhetorically, “Do the actions of the General Conference change anything in the life of this conference? My hope is that it deepens our prayer life, that we will be actively about the work of welcoming our LGBTQ siblings, that we would be engaged in reaching out and inviting them This is not an ordinary time for United Methodists; it is a time to determine if we are a people of love.”
The bishop encouraged progressives to extend that love to members of this conference who have a more traditional point of view, also, and to be in conversation with them.
The legislation passed by General Conference would impose stiffer restrictions on clergy who perform same-sex marriages, but Bishop Carcaño was skeptical that those provisions will pass Judicial Council muster, having already been ruled unconstitutional before efforts to clean them up and make them compliant were made in plenary.
Any complaint against a Cal-Nev member of clergy, the bishop said, would be handled “with great care.
“My cabinet and I are of one mind and one spirit … we would stand with you,” she stated.
The bishop recommended that people and churches not withhold funds from the general church.
“Those resources will be used for good around the world. Conservatives from the US are influencing their delegates. Those resources that God has given us do not belong to us or to them, but to God,” she said.
Emily Allen, co-chair of the delegation (at right), matched the bishop’s energy.
“There is a lot of justice work to do besides LGBTQ. We need to keep doing that work, in ourselves and in our groups. The best thing that I am doing is to stop and listen to my LGBTQ siblings,” she shared.
Allen said in her mind, what happened at General Conference was not traditional and not conservative, but rather, “a new spirit that was not the direction that Wesley intended his church to go.
“I have heard a lot about dying churches. I think we need to stop that focus,” she admonished. “We say that we are for inclusion. Can we share that? Can you say that? ‘This is why I’m a Christian, and this is why you might find something in my church.’”
Read Bishop Carcaño’s March 3 message, “Because It Is Christ’s Church,” written after the visit to Los Altos.
The communications office is preparing videos of the Los Altos Episcopal Visit and the one Tuesday evening (March 5) at First UMC of Sacramento, where 442 people crowded the sanctuary. They will be posted and available for download next week. Each video will be approximately 3 minutes in length, suitable for sharing with congregations on Sunday, March 17.