Family and Friends of Rocky River United Methodist Church,
I hope you’ll grant me a few moments of your time. I am reaching out on behalf of Rev. Dan and myself in regards to the results of the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church that concluded on February 26. This communication is open to all but intended specifically for folks from our church family who supported the One Church Plan and the idea of the UMC making ordination and marriage unions available to people from the LGBTQ community. As your pastors, our silence immediately following the rejection of the One Church Plan at the Special General Conference, we fear, could potentially be perceived as us speaking more loudly and in ways we never would intend in a moment when expressions of love and kindness are most needed. Given Rev. Dan and my beliefs on this issue, we know many of you may not wish to hear from us at all right now, but we feel this shouldn’t keep us from reaching out in love.
We are not writing to gloat or to add to the deep pain and frustration we know you must already feel. In fact, quite the opposite. Although it doesn’t align with our views, we can honestly say that we felt absolutely no joy upon hearing that the One Church Plan was rejected. If this is a victory for those who share our views, it is very hollow as we simply cannot find joy in a decision that is going to crush the spirits of countless people within the body of Christ who are advocating for something they are passionate about and who are motivated by a desire to advance God’s love in the world. We cannot find joy in anything that is going to further alienate a group of people (members of the LGBTQ community and those advocating for them) who need and deserve to experience the radical and welcoming love of God as much as anyone else. It may seem contradictory to offer such sentiments as two individuals who desired the UMC to affirm its current stance on this issue, but this is how we feel. And we want you to know that, even while we support the decision the Special General Conference has made, our hearts ache for each of the individuals who will feel disregarded and frustrated on the other side.
We don’t pretend to know the perfect answer to help our denomination, or even our church family at RRUMC, to find peace or unity in an issue that is incredibly divisive. At some point down the road, it is not at all unlikely that this same issue will come before another General Conference and the results will be very different, and we will be amongst those who will be coping with what we will experience as a devastating “loss”. But the truth is, friends, we all lose when the church is divided. We all lose when people are feeling disregarded and judged. We all lose when any hope of healthy communication deteriorates and faithful followers of Christ resort to slinging mud at each other.
Our prayer is that we would return to prayer on the question of how to move forward and how to continue to be family on the other side of this. Our prayer is that the UMC would work all the more diligently to speak a message of love and welcome to people of the LGBTQ community, despite having spoken out about our belief that God disapproves of embracing such a lifestyle, and despite the fact that such efforts will likely be rejected on almost all accounts. Regardless of our differences, and the incredible difficulties this whole ordeal will have made for us in doing so, we still are called to witness to and love all people. Our hope is that we are all the more dedicated to doing so on the other side of this vote.
In addition, our prayer is that those at RRUMC representing differing views would continue to be able to worship together, follow Christ together, and love others together as church family. But for any who conclude that this is not possible for them given the stance of the denomination or your pastors, know that we will deeply grieve such a decision, but will also respect it and release you with love and affection to a different church home which you feel is better suited to provide for your faith journey.
While this is not the proper time or context for further digging into such matters, know that we remain open to and would welcome opportunities to discuss our beliefs and hearts on this issue, not via email or written exchange, but in person. As your pastors, we still love you and cherish your role within this church family, and will continue to be the best pastors we can be for you until/unless you indicate otherwise.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Paul Bennett
Rev. Dan Bogre
Post-General Conference Information:. A video recording of the March 10 post-General Conference informational gathering led by Bishop Malone and members of our East Ohio delegation is available for viewing (~90 minutes long).