Oak Forest United Methodist Church
Thursday, March 21, 2019
To Know Christ, To Grow in Christ, To Share Christ

Pastor's Message

Response to UMC General Conference decision
March 5, 2019
Greetings Oak Forest! Grace to you and Peace to all from God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I would like to share a scripture that had been a guiding light for me from the Apostle Paul:

“I therefore beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one Baptist, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NRSV)
 
The United Methodist Church General Conference met in St. Louis, MO last week and concluded their work on Tuesday evening, February 26th. The General Conference is the legislative body of the United Methodist Church that speaks for the denomination. Every four years, at Annual Conference, every annual conference elects representatives to serve at the global level. The Western North Carolina Annual Conference elected 10 lay delegates and 10 clergy in 2016 and those delegates attended both the 2016 General Conference and this most recent specially called General Conference.

The General Conference voted to adopt what is called a “Modified Traditional Plan” in an effort to move our church forward from a debate that has been going on since 1974 around the ordination of homosexual individuals and the question around if UMC clergy could conduct weddings of same sex couples. (For more information go to www.umc.org)

As you all know this is a very hotly debated topic across our country. I have served churches across a theological spectrum and have friends and colleagues who are deeply saddened by the adoption of the “Modified Traditional Plan” and those who are relieved and elated with this decision. Within our own church body, we have people across a spectrum of belief too and I truly believe that this is what makes the United Methodist Church so strong. But there are times when our differing stances are at odds with one another.

There are times when our differentness causes us to struggle. In the 2000 year history of the Christian Church, there have been all sorts of theological struggles. One of first struggles was what lead the Apostle Paul to write these words that call us back to the core of what it means to be Christian. While we are not struggling with the decision to carry the mission to the Gentiles or if we should follow the LAW down to the letter (see Acts 15 for the way they navigated their way through those difficulties), our struggles are just as real and timely to what it means to be the church and Christian in the 21st century. 

Right now, I am encouraging everyone to be in prayer for our beloved family called the UMC and all the different facets of our family called Christian. While we may not agree on all things, we do agree on this:
·        God is our Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.
·        We’ve been created out of love and for love of our Triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) God.
·        Jesus chose to die on the cross for sake and for our eternal redemption. Salvation is a gift, offered freely to ALL people, regardless of who they are, how they vote in political elections, what country they are born, the color of their skin, and what sexual orientation they may have. When Jesus says all he means all people.
·        We are baptized into One Body of Christ. Our baptism unites us beyond what we are capable of doing ourselves. We serve one God in three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

Oak Forest is a place where God is so alive and so active. I am begging us to stay focused on the main thing: Jesus Christ and the ministry that we are called to be about in our corner of the world. Please do not fear. This is God’s church and we are God’s people and God will see us through this time. Let’s not forget who we are and the amazing things that are happening right here right now…
·        We are a place for refuge, Christian formation, and God’s love for the children and youth of our community. In any given week we have upwards to 70-100 children and youth in our building daily who are loved and nurtured in the faith. I’ve lost count now to the number of adults who are active in our local schools, being a helping Christ-like hand to our children right where they are on a daily basis.
·        We have three incredible worship services every week where we praise God and worship His Holy Name. We are place of welcome to our community and have a heart for those who are hurting and on the margins of life.
·         We are in the process of discerning the vision God has for our church. Our church responded so abundantly and faithfully to that call and the vision team is so excited about the places God is going to take us.
·        We love one another as a church body and that love is felt every time someone comes through our doors. This is something that I am so proud of and I cherish.

My door is always open if you would like to talk. I am so blessed to be your pastor and I am blessed to serve alongside such an incredibly faithful and devoted group of Christians. Oak Forest is a special place and will continue to be for many years to come.

Please receive this blessing: “Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 6:23, NRSV).

Peace of Christ,
Pastor Julie
 
 
March 2019