The following was prepared by Rev. Tom Kendall, Pastor of Tujunga UMC.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Cal-Pac Conference,
As you know, much has been said concerning the special called session of the General Conference (GC2019). In his reflections on the decision made by the delegates at GC2019 to adopt the Traditional Plan Bishop Hagiya said “…it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion” (Cal-Pac Conference email 2/26/2019). On March 24 of this year the Cal-Pac Conference leadership team, along with the General Conference delegates placed an advertisement in both the Sunday Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune “…with the purpose of differentiating our particular expression of United Methodism here in our region and with our people” (Cal-Pac email 3/23/2019). In an email concerning Apportionment Giving we were told of how the GC2019 “continued to weigh heavily on many of us laity, clergy and Bishops” and identified redirecting certain apportionment giving as “an important act of resistance” (Cal-Pac email 4/10/2019). A statement from the Cal-Pac Board of Ordained Ministry said, “Our practice upholds that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities can live up to our high standards of fitness, readiness, and effectiveness in ministry” (Cal-Pac email 4/11/2019). In all these communications from our Cal-Pac Conference we have yet to hear reflections on the GC2019 from the Traditionalist point of view. If we truly are a ‘Big Tent’ when it comes to our theological perspectives, then we must give equal opportunity to all those perspectives, including those of the minority opinion in our Cal-Pac Conference. The following are reflections on the GC2019 from a Traditionalist perspective.
Let me first say that these are my own personal reflections on the GC2019. I am not a member of the Cal-Pac Renewal organization nor am I a member of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. I am just a traditional pastor who has come to realize that the opinions expressed through the Cal-Pac Update email information system have been exclusively from the Progressive point of view. The following are reflections from a Traditionalist point of view.
The primary reason I believe the acceptance of the Traditional plan by the delegates at the GC2019 is the direction God is leading the United Methodist Church to move is the multitude of prayers that were lifted up prior to the 2019 General Conference. Our Cal-Pac Conference had a 24-hour prayer vigil prior to the GC2019. Bishop Hagiya shared with us the fact that the delegates at the GC2019 dedicated a day to prayer and fasting prior to considering any of the petitions. Our Christian faith is one in which we can trust that God answers prayer. What we find difficult to accept is when God’s answer to our prayers is not what we expect. When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane he said, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”” (Matthew 26:39, ESV) When Jesus taught his disciples (and us) to pray he said we should pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, ESV) We must trust God’s will is accomplished when we pray and thus, I am confident, because of the outpouring of prayer, that God’s will was done at the GC2019.
For some reason the church in our day has been fearful of mentioning sin, possibly so as not to offend anyone. The fact is the Bible has much to say about sin. The same apostle Paul who wrote “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, ESV) also wrote “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:22–24, ESV). From the Traditionalist perspective homosexuality is a sin. Sadly, the church in general seems to think that homosexuality is the worst possible sin anyone can commit. When the apostle Paul mentions homosexuality, he does so in the same context as greed. Who hasn’t been greedy at one time or another? Sin is sin and since we are all sinners, we must all repent. If we United Methodists are to be at the task of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world then we must heed the call of Jesus himself when he said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, ESV). This applies to every single individual who will identify themselves as Christians. We are all sinners and must deny ourselves each and every day.
Lastly let me say that, as a United Methodist with a Traditionalist perspective, I hold to the tradition of our theological understanding of holy conferencing. Ever since the Christmas Conference of 1784 Methodism has been about the business of holy conferencing. I don’t see how we can even identify as Methodist if we reject this ‘method’ of discernment for the body of believers. The apostle Paul wrote “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, ESV) If Paul could say “Now I know in part” how much more can we say the same? An equal representation of both laity and clergy at General Conference is the only viable way of discerning the future for a people who see things as if looking in a dimly lit mirror. I am grieved by the fact that several of our Cal-Pac sisters and brothers, both lay and clergy, have rejected this longstanding method of resolving differences in our United Methodist denomination.
Respectfully in Christ,
Rev. Tom Kendall