e-letter 2/28/19

Dear Church Family,
 
You may be a little surprised to hear from us this early in the week. We decided yesterday that the events of the General Conference couldn’t go without comment. After much debate, and painful exchange, the intentions of the United Methodist Church’s Special Called General Conference became clear: The Traditionalist Plan or no plan at all. Finally, the delegates passed The Traditionalist Plan. This means that the United Methodist Church’s stance on LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination does not change, and the enforcement of our rules increases in intensity. Even before the decision was actually made, it was obvious through the whole weekend that there is a deep and wide divide in our beloved denomination.
 
To some of you, this is news that brings relief. We know that you interpret this conversation traditionally. With respect to all of those feelings, we reiterate that you are welcome at Suntree.
 
To others of you, this is devastating. We know that you or someone you love identifies as LGBTQ+. With respect to all of those feelings, we reiterate that you, too, are welcome at Suntree.
 
Finally, to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters specifically: you are beloved children of God, and we cannot imagine the pain that this choice must bring to you. We are so sorry.
 
In that way, I have to confess: we were really pulling for the One Church Plan. When we preached on Sunday and promised no change to our ministry at Suntree, we really meant it. With the One Church Plan, we planned to continue just as ourselves — welcoming to all people and on mission together. It was our best chance at unity in diversity in the midst of a polarized world.
 
Pastor Annette and I have spent time in the Florida Conference and knew that our diversity is our strength. No church in Miami would ever be exactly like a church in Alachua. This is a gift.
 
To us, it seemed the Traditional Plan has less openness to diversity. We believe we learn so much from the wide diversity present in our conference, and so we, your pastors, mourn this day for our denomination. But we reiterate to you our promise on Sunday. Even in our mourning, we know that God is at work in our lives.
 
Therefore, our ministry at Suntree will not change. We will continue to be a church that loves and welcomes everyone (really, seriously, still). We will continue to be on mission to love God and love our neighbors in extraordinary ways. We will continue to love and serve one another, even in the midst of great disagreement. I hope and pray you will join us in that.
 
You may still need some time to process this decision… me, too. Tonight at 6:30pm in the Worship Center we will hold our regular Journey prayer time, but the result of our General Conference will be our focus. You are welcomed to join us, to pray, and to share in Holy Communion, even if you do not attend a Journey course. We also plan to go Live on Facebook for this as well.
 
This will just be a space for prayer. For more information, Bishop Carter will hold a live webcast at 11am Friday at this link: https://www.flumc.org/bishop-carter-cgc-webinar. After the dust settles a little bit more, we will hold a Town Hall 4pm Sunday, March 10, in the Worship Center. This will be a time when Pastor Annette and I will answer your questions and help you make sense of some of the policy decisions made, and what specifically could change for our denomination, our conference, and us.
 
For now, my friends and siblings in Christ, hear this: there is nothing that separates us from the love of God. Not a denominational decision, or a disagreement about scriptural interpretation, or anything at all under the sun. Nothing. We believe that you are a beloved child of God no matter where you are in this conversation, and will continue to do ministry alongside you wholeheartedly. Please hear first and loudest the loving voice of Christ calling you Beloved, and enough.
 
You are loved. We will continue to preach that Gospel here at Suntree.
 
With Shalom in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Allee