Long and anxiously awaited decisions handed down by our Judicial Council pleased some, angered others, and mystified yet others. A full report can be found at UMC.org by Linda Bloom, but the Judicial Council predictably maintained a straightforward and conservative reading of our current Book of Discipline. This is exactly what the Judicial Council exists to do. It does not challenge doctrine and polity; it does not reinterpret doctrine and polity. Our Judicial Council holds the institution of The United Methodist Church accountable to the legislative decisions of the General Conference. So, there is really no surprise, though different perspectives were hoping for different outcomes.
Our denomination continues to navigate through a minefield of differing opinions, beliefs, interpretations, and theological worldviews. During certain times in our history, this grace-space for the broadest spectrum of Christian interpretation has been our strength. Not so much in recent years. Living in the liminal spaces of uncertainty and disagreement is stressful, and the current rulings move us no closer to resolution. Our Commission on A Way Forward is doing the interpretive and generative work. We will see what they offer very soon.
And where does this leave us? It leaves us in the same flawed and imperfect world in which humankind dwelt since Eden. It leaves us “working out our own salvation with fear and trembling” in the grand tradition of our Philippian forebears. It leaves us as beloved children of God, living together in grace and compassion, seeking to be faithful to love God and one another. Nothing has really changed. We are the same church today that we were yesterday – but by God’s grace we are becoming the people of faith our world most desperately needs. It is my deepest hope and desire that we can unite in our faith in Christ and our love for God’s church that we might witness to healing love and restorative justice. Our journey toward full inclusion is fraught with perils, pressures and problems, but our God is greater!
This is a time to pray for Karen Oliveto, the Mountain Sky Conference, and our whole United Methodist denomination. Now is a time for intercessory prayer. Now is a time for adoration and praise. Now is a time for confession and petition. Now is a time for us to find our center in our faith as we pray, together, “not our will, but thine be done.”
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).