st. louis

I MADE A PROMISE TO YOU LAST MONTH DURING A CONGREGATIONAL MEETING and this past Sunday from the pulpit - a promise that I would rise on the morning of February 27, 2019, to do the same work I have been doing as a pastor in the United Methodist Church in parts of three decades regardless of what happened in the larger United Methodist Church between February 23-26, 2019.

BY NOW, I KNOW MANY OF YOU HAVE SEEN either online or in other media outlets that the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church has adjourned, having taken action to affirm and strengthen our denomination's stances with respect to our understanding of marriage and human sexuality.
My heart is heavy tonight because there is so much pain in so many that I love and adore - friends, colleagues, and fellow Christians within and beyond the United Methodist Church. Erin and I have talked as this week has gone on about how much our hearts are heavy with the emotion of this week; each of us has been moved to tears more than once as we have pondered where we will go from here as a denomination.
You will see and hear many things said and done in response and reaction to the events of this week. While the General Conference's work is done, there are still items to be considered by our Judicial Council (the UMC's Supreme Court, if you will) that may lead to some modifications of this week's work. I would encourage anyone looking at these issues to remember there is always more to the story than you can find from any one person or in any one place.
At her listening session about these matters in Lake Charles back in November, our Resident Bishop, Cynthia Fierro Harvey, provided what I believe has been the most wise advice offered in all this: No matter what happens in St. Louis, take time to think and pray, discerning how God is calling you to respond in Christian love and hope. 
The reason I made the promise to you that I would wake up on February 27 and do the same work I've done in my career is because the calling has not changed from Christ for His church - to go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. We are called to be people who learn, live, and tell the gospel story to any and all, in thought, word, and deed. No action by 800+ people in a football stadium in St. Louis could modify that in any way, shape, or form.
Before the closing hymn each Sunday, you know I extend an invitation to any and all who are seeking a church home who would like to explore or commit to becoming a member of First United Methodist Church are welcome to come forward, talk to me after worship, or get in touch with me during the week. I put no strings on that invitation, and do not plan to start doing so now.
I do believe that, no matter whether you support the outcomes in St. Louis or not, that while there will always be joy because of Christ's victory over evil on the cross, there are tears of sadness all the way around. 
Our Lord has guided the faithful for millennia through so much, and I think the only fitting way to conclude this pastoral note is to quote the Rev. John Wesley's final words from his deathbed, "Best of all, God is with us." May it be so, now and always.
Grace and Peace,

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