Special General Conference Resources
This page provides resources for the congregation members of the Westchester United Methodist Church (Los Angeles, California, USA) as they process and reflect upon the actions by the Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church in February 2019 in St. Louis.
Bishop's Sermon - March 3, 2019
GC2019 Bishop's Reflection: Tuesday, February 26, 2019
I greet you in the name of Jesus Christ!
By now you have probably all heard that the General Conference Special Called Session is now over, and the Traditional Plan prevailed (53% - 438 votes to 47% - 384 votes). Although it does have repressive ramifications to our LGBTQI community, the Judicial Council has ruled much of it unconstitutional. At the same time, this decision is also symbolic in its implications because it signals a turn of the United Methodist Church to a more judgmental and political entity that is against inclusion and for exclusion.
With this conservative turn, I have been deeply conflicted. The question is, “can I stay in a repressive and oppressive church with integrity?” After a sleepless night, I came to a new resolve. I believe I must stay in the UMC and lead our people within the geographical context we find ourselves in the West. We have been living the One Church Plan for decades, and I don’t see why we should change that about us. We live and let live and it is totally consistent with the theology of John Wesley.
We cannot turn back at this point. We have come too far to make this conservative stance. In fact, I don’t think that it is possible for us. I believe that even our more traditional churches have a deep tolerance based on our geography. I believe they know that we accept their theology and hopefully, we treat them the same as everyone else: with respect and dignity.
Now that the General Conference Special Called Session is over, it is time that we focus on what God is calling us to: Our mission and ministry in the very name of Jesus Christ! Nothing is more important than this. Nothing must distract us from this central purpose. Nothing must stand in the way of our ministries of compassion and care!
What I am calling us to do is to learn what God is trying to teach us through this Special Called Session and get to the business of being the church. We need to focus on making disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to engage our local neighborhoods and surrounding communities. We need to feed the hungry, house the immigrant, heal the sick, and preach the Good News.
It is important for us to confess our sins and shortcomings: Too many have been hurt and harmed in our theological wars. Too many have been hurt and harmed by being objectified by the church. Too many have left the church because they have not been welcomed or cared for. If there has been anything I have done personally that has offended or harmed, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask for your forgiveness. I pray that we will all seek such confession and forgiveness.
Most of all, we must turn to each other for healing and care. It is time to put our arms around each other and heal from harming each other. It is time for us to have hearts of peace and not hearts of war. It is time for us to support each other and care for each other.
Being away so long in St. Louis has drained and exhausted me. I long to come home and be back in ministry with all of you. I long for home where I belong.
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
Letter from the District Superintendent
February 28, 2019
Dear West District Clergy and Laity:
Last night I returned home from the special called General Conference in St. Louis, which was held to move the United Methodist Church forward on issues of LGBTQI inclusion.
During the week I joined with fellow West District brethren to support the One Church plan that was itself was supported by the United Methodist Council of Bishops. Along with its supporters, I believed that this plan offered the most logical, reasonable and faithful way that would enable clergy and congregations to extend ministry to our LGBTQI sisters and brothers on terms with which they feel comfortable carrying out their ministries.
As you know, the decision did not go as we had expected, with the Traditional Plan being voted in favor by a majority of the voting delegates. This plan will retain the current language in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that condemns same-sex persons in language that reflects a narrow biblical context. It will continue to exclude same-sex persons from being ordained into the ministry, while also not allowing same-sex couples to be married by a United Methodist pastor or to have their marriage ceremony held in a United Methodist Church building. Overall, it will foster an atmosphere of judgment rather than grace in ministering to the LGBTQI community.
At the moment the results of General Conference are on hold. The Judicial Council of the Church (our “Supreme Court”) will review the full constitutionality of the Traditional Plan at its meeting in April. The decision to refer this matter to the Judicial Council was approved by a 51% vote of the delegates.
Aside from my personal disappointment in what transpired this week, I have been able to put these events in a context that helps me find my own way forward beyond the immediate impacts of the decision that was made this week.
As a third-generation Japanese American, I bear the legacy of the W.W. II internment camp experience which my parents and grandparents were forced to live out. Like this week’s events, their experience was the result of a decision; a decision that was grounded in exclusion, fear and hatred, rather than inclusion, acceptance and love. Like our LGBTQI brothers and sisters, my parents and grandparents were labeled as “the other,” and looked upon with second-class status (or less).
Thankfully, their harsh experience living in the camps was softened by those on the outside of the barbed wire fences who showed up to provide care and ministry to them during this three -year period of their lives. In fact, one of our West District congregations has a member whose relative taught school-kids in the camp where my own father and his family were interned, and he shares powerful stories of his relative’s experiences that were handed down to him during those dark days 77 years ago.
I will model my own “way forward” in the same way while we await the Judicial Council decision and especially afterwards, regardless of how the ruling comes down. I will continue to provide a witness of Jesus’ compassionate love to my LGBTQI brethren in whatever capacities I am able to do so. I will choose to light the candle rather than curse the darkness, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide our Church forward in the way of the Gospel.
Remembering that “perfect love casts out fear” (I John 4:18), I will strive to find a way forward so that the LGBTQI community will ultimately experience the perfect love of Jesus Christ in the United Methodist Church.
Grace and Peace,
Reverend Mark M. Nakagawa
West District Superintendent
A message from Western Jurisdiction Leaders
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
At the 2019 Special Called Session of the General Conference, Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Western Jurisdiction Leadership Team made this statement on behalf of Western Jurisdiction Leadership:
"We have long appreciated the richness of the global diversity of our United Methodist Church and have embraced opportunities to join with you all in the work of making disciples for the transformation of the world.
"We also understand the purpose of the Church to be in mission and ministry. Consequently, we in the West have been functioning for years as One Church committed to full inclusion, seeking to be a home for all God’s people.
"Today we acknowledge the fracture of this body, yet we worship a God who tells us that the body of Christ has many parts, all equally valued. Rooted in Wesleyan tradition, grounded in Scripture and committed to mission and ministry, the Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children, across the theological and social spectrum.
"We know from experience we are stronger when we live together as progressives, traditionalists and centrists in our Church. Many times during this Conference we have sung or prayed or blessed each other with the reminder that we need each other.
In two weeks, the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction will meet. We want to be clear that the leadership of the Western Jurisdiction believes in one church for all. Mission and ministry is too important. This is where we stand, we are not moving, we are not leaving, and we are not changing.
A message from Pastor Keith
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
The decisions made by the Special General Conference of The United Methodist Church have brought much disappointment, uncertainty, and anguish to all throughout the connection. I was hoping for a resolution that was full of grace and compassion for all and am deeply disappointed at the outcome of the Special General Conference.
The decisions of the Special General Conference have far reaching implications for all in our denomination, including Westchester United Methodist Church. In the days to come, we will struggle to understand and adapt to this new reality under the guidance of our bishop, Bishop Grant Hagiya, and the cabinet.
However, the core function of our mission has not changed. As a Christian community, our purpose is to experience God’s love through our personal spiritual journey with Christ and express that love to all people as Jesus Christ lived and taught. Westchester United Methodist Church will continue to offer radical hospitality to all as our welcoming statement clearly states.
As a reconciling congregation, we believe that we are being reconciled to God and one another. We celebrate our diversity and recognize the sacred worth of persons of all races, gender identities, ages, sexual orientations, physical or mental abilities. We welcome all persons into full faith and fellowship.
As your pastor, I will work with your leaders to seek ways to express our commitment to be a worshipful community of radical hospitality to all people who are hurt and disappointed by the decision, both within our congregation as well as the community. As the disciples of Jesus Christ, let us continue to be the light of hope and the salt of peace with justice.