Below are letters from Pastor Paul about the 2019 Tennessee Annual Conference.

Young people lead TAC

July 12, 2019

Dear Belmont friends, 
We are all proud of the thoughtful, courageous and Christlike leadership of Belmont UMC's young people. Let me tell you about their leadership at our Tennessee Annual Conference (TAC).  
Caroline Cramer and Abby Mendez received a moment of "personal privilege" to read aloud the "Open Letter" before the delegates and guests filling up Brentwood UMC. The letter was created in collaboration with 10 other churches, and the Conference CCYM and signed by over 100 youth from 23 churches. Below is a portion of this beautifully sound theological appeal: 
"If we truly believe that everyone is born of God's image, then it is our responsibility as Christians to show Jesus's love to everyone equally. We cannot and should not hold back sharing our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. Love is love, and we should love those who express love differently than we do.
We understand there are passages in scripture that lead people to question affirming LGBTQI+ people in the church. In our Confirmation classes, we learned about the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, which teaches us to read the Bible with both reason and experience in mind. As we read these scriptures, we recognize they must be held in tension with their context and with our experiences that all of us are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. 
We also recognize there are many things we do today that the Bible forbids. We welcome the uncircumcised; we give clergy rights to women; we allow remarriage after divorce; we allow those who are remarried to pursue a call to ministry. Our church has grown to accept all of these practices yet has remained stagnant on human sexuality. 
We need a church where all of us can be called to ministry. We need a church where all of us can look forward to being married in the sanctuaries where we've fallen in love with God by the pastors who have taught us to love God and love each other. We need a church where all of us are affirmed in the image of God and called into the priesthood of all believers. We need a church where we can invite all of our friends knowing they will be welcomed and affirmed. We need a church that we can be proud to tell our friends we are a part of instead of feeling like we have to hide it, or worse, feeling like we don't belong. We need a church that celebrates the great diversity of people present in the UMC.
Many of us are deeply hurt by the passing of the Traditional Plan in St. Louis and the exclusive language in the Book of Discipline, but The United Methodist Church is so important to all of us, and we want to continue to build God's kingdom together. We are committed to continue the mission of God's gift of priceless love that we were taught at our baptisms. We hope and pray you will stand with us today and commit to making sure all are welcome and affirmed in The United Methodist Church.
Sincerely and in Christ's love,
United Methodist LGBTQI+ youth and allies in the TN Conference
You can read about how the Tennessee Conference apologized for harm caused by the 2019 Tradition Plan and the election of our most progressive and diverse delegation in a previous letter below. The full manuscript of the open letter written by the youth can be read here.
Next week we will wrap up the TAC news with a few words about our decision to unite with the Memphis Conference, John Pearce, and direct billing of clergy pension and healthcare costs to local churches.
Grace and love, 
Pastor Paul

Gratitude for the clergy and laity who led our Conference

July 5, 2019

Dear Belmont friends,

Last week, I shared the good news of our Tennessee Conference passing a resolution stating: the Tennessee Conference apologizes for the harm that actions at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference have caused LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, their friends, and the body of Christ. We affirm that "all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God”. 

Today, I want to express my deep gratitude for the young clergy and laity who led our Conference and gave Tennessee our most diverse General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation. Eighteen of the twenty TNUMC delegates are progressive or centrists. Our four General Conference clergy delegates include three women, a young adult, a deacon, and two African Americans! Our delegation includes young adults, persons of color, members of the LGTBQI community, and a majority female delegation. Of our TNUMC group five delegates hold roots in Belmont UMC: Rev Marie King elected to general conference. Rev. Jefferson Furtado, Rev. Paul Purdue, Linda Furtado, and Jacob Vaughan were elected to jurisdictional conference.  Additionally, Rachel Hagewood, who grew up at Belmont and is married to Mark Hagewood, our Financial Administrative Coordinator, was elected as an alternate to Jurisdictional Conference.

These Tennessee delegate elections mirror results across the U. S., but hard denominational work is before us. With a more progressive and diverse delegation, we must not only seek to undo the harm done by GC 2019, but build a more just and vibrant church for all people! I know that all twenty Tennessee delegates and alternates welcome your prayers. Next week I will share about the open letter our youth read on the floor of Annual Conference, and after that, John Pearce and uniting with Memphis.

Grace and love, 
Pastor Paul

Good news from the Tennessee Annual Conference

June 28, 2019

Dear Belmont friends,

I am not really sure just where to start with the good news from our Tennessee Annual Conference 2019. I might start by mentioning our youth reading an open letter to the Tennessee Conference, five Belmonters being elected to General or Jurisdictional Conference in 2020, the Conference voting in the most diverse and progressive delegation, the standing ovation for John Pearce, Jefferson Furtado's ordination, the Conference adopting an Inclusive Resolution, our uniting with the Memphis Conference or just the civility and kindness within the Conference! Over the next few weeks I will share a bit about each of these!

Perhaps, I am most proud to report that with a 62% majority, our Conference adopted an Inclusion Resolution in what was largely a civil, theological and Christ-like debate. Yes, we heard a few references to the clobber passages, but our debate mostly moved beyond proof texting. Rev. Stephen Sauls called us to uphold the Sermon on the Mount's injunction to comfort the hurting and seek reconciliation with our Christian kindred. (Matthew 5:23)

We rejoice that the Tennessee Conference resolved:

"Whereas, the United Methodist Church has a tradition of great nuance in the matter of Biblical interpretation (such as displayed in its treatment of slavery, divorce, and the ordination of women) but reverts to simplistic literalism when addressing full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ in its life and ministry; (2) And whereas, the United Methodist Church has singled out LGBTQIA+ persons and those who support full inclusion for special punitive actions; ... And whereas, the first general rule John Wesley gave the people called Methodists was, "Do no harm;" ... And whereas, by passing the Traditional Plan, the denomination has done great harm, and perhaps irreparable harm, to our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters; ... (and to) our witness to the world as to the unconditional and inclusive love of Christ; Therefore ... the Tennessee Conference apologizes for the harm that actions at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference have caused LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, their friends, and the body of Christ. We affirm that "all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God," and urge all in ministry, whether lay or clergy, to affirm that no human being is incompatible with Christian teaching.(3) And be it further resolved, that we urge all lay and clergy in the Tennessee Conference to make all reasonable efforts to address issues related to LGBTQIA+ ordination and marriage in a manner so as to treat church trials and judicial processes as a last resort."

Click here to read the full resolution.

Next week, we will share a little bit about our five folks connected to Belmont elected to the UMC General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation!

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Paul