Dear Belmont Friends,
On March 3, 2022, we learned that the United Methodist General Conference scheduled for 2020 would be postponed until 2024. This decision was made due to visa delays that began in the Trump Administration, were exacerbated by Covid travel bans, and currently stretch to as long as 800 days. It is easy to forget that we belong to a global denomination with 56% of our delegates coming from the United States and 32% from Africa. You might wonder why not have a 862 delegate, two week meeting with required real-time translation into French, German, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, and American Sign Language on Zoom? The Commission rejected such a video conference citing factors including a 16-hour time difference among delegates, unequal internet availability, and the difficulty in safeguarding voting. By postponing the 2020 General Conference to 2024, the GC can use a venue already secured for the regularly scheduled quadrennial event. (www.umnews.org/en/news/general-conference)
Reconciling Ministries Network (which Belmont UMC supports) offered a gracious statement about this third delay: “Let us be honest here: holding a pandemic-era General Conference with myriad barriers to safe and equitable participation would not have been a Christ-like way to be the Church. We also know that there is no General Conference outcome that can create the kind of justice that LGBTQ+ people deserve. Legislation is important, and RMN will continue to engage in collaborative work to influence legislative change; however, no legislative solution can transform our Church. The work of transformation is not merely legislative and is our work. This is our daily fare.” (rmnetwork.org)
Despite the understandable Covid-driven delays, we rejoice that many conferences elected more progressive and moderate delegations for the 2020 Conference. Eighteen of Tennessee’s twenty delegates are moderates or progressives. Six of my fellow Tennessee's delegates hold deep Belmont UMC roots. Soon after the Commission on General Conference announced the delay, the Global Methodist Church, formerly the Wesley Covenant Association, announced plans to leave the UMC as early as May of this year. Several non-affirming churches are already leaving our Conference to become independent churches. We at Belmont, along with our friends at RMN, believe God will lead our beloved United Methodist Church into a more faithful and inclusive future. (#BeUMC)
Belmont UMC is deepening our commitment to welcome all people with our financial support of RMN, small groups, hiring decisions, serving Communion at Pride, and recent updates to our wedding policies. Since 1914, Belmont has sought to keep in step with God’s Spirit; our cornerstone reads, “Made not after the law of a carnal commandment but after the power of an endless life.” (Hebrews 7) Let us keep sharing the Good News of Jesus’ love, justice and inclusion! Indeed, God may use this delay to help our denomination become a more welcoming place for all God’s children.
Pastor Paul Purdue