Beloved Weston United Methodist friends and family,
As some of you are aware, the United Methodist Church looks a bit different since the announced disaffiliation and subsequent launch of the Global Methodist Church (GMC), effective May 1st 2022. I am writing to you with a heavy heart, an uneasy spirit, and a mind full of more questions than answers. My hunch is that many of you are feeling the same.
The newly formed GMC is made up of some of our denomination’s more theologically and socially conservative members. Its existence has been in its planning stages since the specially called General Conference adjourned in 2019. The 2019 special session of the General Conference was called specifically to discuss matters related to the Church’s stance on human sexuality and the full inclusion of our LGBTQIA+ siblings. At that time, our global UMC voted - by a narrow majority - to uphold the language in the UMC’s Discipline which states that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching,” while also imposing significant penalties for clergy who officiate same-sex marriages or are “self avowed, practicing homosexuals.” This decision against inclusion was not something our New England Annual Conference supported, many of whom were hoping for an outcome where both conservative and liberal United Methodists continued to coexist under the big tent of United Methodism. As we can now see, this was not possible even under the best of circumstances.
With the launch of the Global Methodist Church (GMC), some United Methodist churches may choose to explore whether to stay with the UMC, to disaffiliate & go with the GMC, or to disaffiliate from Methodism completely to form a new, independent congregation. I believe there will be some clergy in our Annual Conference who may feel the need to take the time to prayerfully discern their own stances. None of these decisions are quick or easy, or made without prayerful consideration. For these reasons I ask us to hold all our UMC siblings in prayer as this plays out over the next few years.
However, while the launch of the GMC has certainly created some uncertainty, here are some things to keep in mind:
Churches and clergy do NOT have to make a choice about their affiliation. At this time, the GMC is not recognized as a denomination with a connection to the UMC, and so there is no need to do anything at this time. I do recommend taking the time to ask questions about the stance of your clergy and your church community, and discerning how your own ideals and theologies align.
The launch of the GMC does not change how we support the global church through our mission shares. Nor does it affect our ability to be the body of Christ in the world as the UMC. Our General Boards and Commissions are still operating, UMCOR is still responding, and we are still called as a people to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
Our WUMC identity as a United Methodist Church serving Weston, Waltham, Lincoln, Maynard, and beyond has not changed. We are still a church dedicated to social justice, and to living God's Love out loud in the world.
We at WUMC reaffirm our identity as a Reconciling Ministries partner congregation to be a place where ALL of God’s beloveds are welcome regardless of gender, identity, sexuality, race, ethnicity, country of origin, age, ability, neurodiversity, or marital, immigration, educational, or socioeconomic status.
We reaffirm our call to keep our baptismal covenant to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves
And we remember that all of us - regardless of where we fall along ideological or theological lines - are beloved children, created in the image of a loving Creator God.
Yet even as we can find reassurance in the knowledge that not much changes for us, this still can feel like a frightening and unstable time. This is valid, beloveds. I encourage us all to reach out to one another as we navigate these strange times together. I encourage you all to have conversations with me and others about our denomination and our Wesleyan identity as it pertains to the way we “do church” as United Methodists here in New England and beyond.
Lastly, a gentle reminder when it comes to having these conversations via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: as you read the posts and updates made by friends or family or church affiliates, remember there is no filter for raw emotion or perspective. Tensions are high. No matter where we find ourselves on the topic of inclusion, we are all feeling the weight of this uncertainty. Please keep this in mind and recognize that while some posts may seem reactionary or inflammatory to you, they are indeed a valid way of processing. Grace must abound in order for us all to make it through this time.
I hope you all will join me in prayer for our church and our people and our world. May all of our hearts remain open to the possibilities of the Spirit so that God may break through in a brilliant and creative movement of Love. We are #StillUMC.
With grace and prayers for peace,
Rev. Alicia Velez Stewart
Pastor, Weston United Methodist Church - Weston, MA