What does the future hold?

Dear friends at St. Stephen’s UMC!


On April 23rd and running through May 3rd over 1000 United Methodists from four different continents and speaking nearly a dozen different languages will gather in Charlotte, North Carolina for our 2020 General Conference (you heard that right, this is the 2020 General Conference, it was originally scheduled for 2020 in Minneapolis but was postponed due to the Covid Pandemic) so this General Conference will take the place of the suspended 2020 General Conference.  And a great deal has changed over those last four years to say the very least, it has been a time of great change and transition.  Since 2020 more than 7,000 United Methodist Congregations have chosen to disaffiliate from the United Methodist church over issues surrounding the rights of the LGBTQIA community within the denomination.  In addition, many of the 862 delegates have either passed or chosen to disaffiliate alongside their home church.  So, clearly, we move forward with some degree of uncertainty about what the future holds for our denomination. 

However, I personally see great potential and great growth on the horizon, I am both joyful and hopeful for our future as United Methodists.  And for many years St. Stephen’s UMC has dreamed and prayed for great change within our denomination, hoping that at some time the church would adopt a more inclusive theology and doctrine and perhaps that time is finally arrived.  The General Conference delegates (14 of whom are delegates from the Oklahoma Annual Conference) are tasked with working their way through over 1,000 different pieces of legislation and petitions to change the discipline and practices of the current United Methodist Church. 

Of those pieces of legislation, a couple of the most important to us as a congregation would be eight different petitions concerning changes to the constitution of the United Methodist Church and the creation of regional conferences.  Currently the United Methodist Church is divided up into four different entities, the United States and the three Central Conferences which include the Philippians, Africa and Europe.  The three Central Conferences currently are allowed to enact legislation within their annual conferences based upon their contextual mission setting independent of General Conference approval.  In the past we have seen this used mostly in the African Conferences using this position to restrict the ordination of women from ministry.  However, the United States was not created as a Central Conference and thus has had to bring legislative change to the General Conference where it has often been voted down by the world-wide delegation.  The creation of four new Regional Conferences would allow each Regional Conference to make legislative changes within their own Regional Conference without interference from a General Conference body.   As was written on the Oklahoma United Methodist Annual Conference website, “Legislation to provide for Worldwide Regionalization reflects the strong values of equity, respect for contextual mission settings, effective mutuality in mission, and legislative equality for regional bodies of the church. Recognizing the effects of colonization, the guiding principle for the regionalization legislation is to empower each region to make certain context-specific decisions in real-time, without being dependent on General Conference, as well as de-centralizing the influence of the United States on General Conference.”

The other part of the legislation that is of primary concern to us at St. Stephen’s is the removal of the exclusive language of the discipline and social principles that excludes the LGBTQIA community from full participation in the life of the church.  Currently as we are all aware, LGBTQIA persons are not able to be married within the United Methodist Church or serve as self-avowed practicing LGBTQ clergy.  The removal of this restrictive language has been at the heart of the disaffiliation process for many United Methodists, but it is my hope as I am sure it is yours as well that this year that language will be removed from the Book of Discipline and we might truly move closer to a truly inclusive church.  Please keep our delegates and our world-wide church in your prayers in days to come. 


Shalom, Patrick