I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ!
By now you have probably all heard that the General Conference Special Called Session is now over, and the Traditional Plan prevailed (53% – 438 votes to 47% – 384 votes). Although it does have repressive ramifications to our LGBTQI community, the Judicial Council has ruled much of it unconstitutional. At the same time, this decision is also symbolic in its implications because it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion.
With this conservative turn, I have been deeply conflicted. The question is, “can I stay in a repressive and oppressive church with integrity?” After a sleepless night, I came to a new resolve. I believe I must stay in the UMC and lead our people within the geographical context we find ourselves in the West. We have been living the One Church Plan for decades, and I don’t see why we should change that about us. We live and let live and it is totally consistent with the theology of John Wesley.
We cannot turn back at this point. We have come too far to make this conservative stance. In fact, I don’t think that it is possible for us. I believe that even our more traditional churches have a deep tolerance based on our geography. I believe they know that we accept their theology and hopefully, we treat them the same as everyone else: with respect and dignity.
Now that the General Conference Special Called Session is over, it is time that we focus on what God is calling us to: Our mission and ministry in the very name of Jesus Christ! Nothing is more important than this. Nothing must distract us from this central purpose. Nothing must stand in the way of our ministries of compassion and care!
What I am calling us to do is to learn what God is trying to teach us through this Special Called Session and get to the business of being the church. We need to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to engage our local neighborhoods and surrounding communities. We need to feed the hungry, house the immigrant, heal the sick, and preach the Good News.
It is important for us to confess our sins and shortcomings: Too many have been hurt and harmed in our theological wars. Too many have been hurt and harmed by being objectified by the church. Too many have left the church because they have not been welcomed or cared for. If there has been anything I have done personally that has offended or harmed, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask for your forgiveness. I pray that we will all seek such confession and forgiveness.
Most of all, we must turn to each other for healing and care. It is time to put our arms around each other and heal from harming each other. It is time for us to have hearts of peace and not hearts of war. It is time for us to support each other and care for each other.
Being away so long in St. Louis has drained and exhausted me. I long to come home and be back in ministry with all of you. I long for home where I belong.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop