Like so many large events this year the pandemic caused a postponement of the General Conference in Minneapolis that was scheduled for May. Because of agreements with the convention center there, the nearest date for rescheduling is a little more than a year from now, Aug. 29-Sept. 7, 2021. That leaves a long time for any action to be taken on legislation seeking to resolve our long divide over human sexuality.
The key legislation which representatives from conservative and progressive sides of the church have supported is called The Protocol. The person who first called together a small group of global leaders who produced The Protocol, Bishop Yambasu from Sierra Leone, was killed last Sunday while driving to conduct a funeral. His death while tragic and untimely, should not have impact on the legislation proceeding. Bishop Yambasu died in pursuit of finding a way forward for our denomination.
This means the UMC is currently living under the restrictions of the Traditional Plan that passed at the special General Conference held in February 2019. The plan not only upheld incompatibility language in our Book of Discipline regarding non-heterosexual persons, it increased punishments of pastors and churches that conduct same-sex weddings and ordinations. The Protocol is intended to provide an amicable separation for those who do not want to remain in the United Methodist Church if our current stances change to be more inclusive, but it also allows annual conferences and congregations to determine whether or not they want to remain United Methodists or join a different expression of Methodism more aligned with the current Traditional Plan. This decision is what awaits us next year.
At St. Luke’s we ended up paying our full apportionments (the funds we give to support the work of the United Methodist Church in Indiana and beyond) in 2019. However, for 2020 we chose to hold our support for the General Church. In the event that somehow a group that did not share our values of openness should control the majority resources of the General Church, we decided to wait until after General Conference in May to resume our support. Now with the postponement of General Conference, this means that funds will go to all of the designated places as budgeted by the General Council on Finance and Administration.
Our congregation gives ten percent, or a tithe of our income, to support the work of the church beyond St. Luke’s. 60% of our tithe stays in Indiana supporting United Methodist needs. 40% goes to the General Church which supports seven important funds: our Episcopal Offices, General Administration, World Service, Black College, Ministerial Education, Africa University and Inter-Denominational Cooperation. While we continued to give the portion that goes to Indiana, St. Luke’s voted last Charge Conference to hold our General Church support until after General Conference this year. Now that the pandemic has caused the postponement of this conference until 2021, we felt the need to reconsider this decision and our Finance Committee and Governing Board thoroughly considered this action.
The pandemic has crushed many small congregations rendering them unable to pay their apportionments. All of the good and worthwhile missions and ministries supported by United Methodism around the world have been hit hard. In recognizing that our giving to the greater church could in no way jeopardize our values in this calendar year, our leadership chose to give full support for 2020.
This does not obligate us in any way for 2021. Our rescheduled General Conference puts us back where we were a year ago with deciding how to support the denomination for the coming year and our Finance Committee will be taking up that discussion as they plow into budget preparation for the year ahead. We simply wanted you to be aware of our action to resume apportionments in full in 2020.
The work to see the United Methodist Church become fully inclusive continues, and it is with great regret that the closure we hoped we would have this past May will now wait for another year. St. Luke’s, like the majority of our denomination, remains committed to this cause, and we are confident that there will be a peaceful, hopeful resolve to this long divide resulting in a new, more-open-than-ever vision for the United Methodist Church. This is our goal!
I close this update by saying, on behalf of all our staff and leadership, how grateful we are for the magnanimous generosity you have displayed this year. Your faithful stewardship is not only a beacon of hope to so many throughout our community right now, it is a model of inspiration to many churches throughout our state and denomination. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians reminding them how their generosity was inspiring people in Achaia, he said, “your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action.” (2 Corinthians 9:2) St. Luke’s, you are inspiring action in people far and wide!
God bless you for your faithfulness to Christ and the ministry of St. Luke’s. You are living out what it means to be an open community of Christians helping people find and give hope through Jesus Christ.