Earlier today, the General Commission on General Conference released a statement that announced the further postponement of General Conference to 2022. Almost immediately after, the Council of Bishops released their own announcement about a virtual called session of General Conference to be held on May 8th to take action on 12 specific items that will allow the UMC to continue to function until a proper General Conference can be safely held.. As you can likely imagine, the news has not been well received among many folks on all sides of the issues that face the United Methodist Church. From my point of view, this was not the news I hoped for but this was the news that I expected. I’ve believed since discussions of the possibility of having a virtual gathering this year began that there was no feasible way of holding a worldwide gathering the magnitude of General Conference virtually. Time zone differences alone would have likely negated this possibility, but add to that technology and infrastructure disparities – and the challenge of assuring the security of the voting process – one could see why a fully virtual General Conference is not possible. In short, a further postponement could not be avoided (the first announcement details the reasons why a full-on virtual gathering could not happen). Today’s announcements only confirmed the conclusions that most people seemed to have already come to.
I know that many people are frustrated by this news. I know that there are at least some who might want to throw the towel in and say “to heck with this.” In other words, I know there are laity and clergy who are ready to leave the UMC right now. My advice is: Don’t. I know I probably sound like a broken record but now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions and rash decisions. We have waited this long for the issues around human sexuality to be decided by our delegates and waiting one more year is not going to be that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. I’ve seen on social media laments of “kicking the can down the road” but please understand that this simply could not be avoided due to the ongoing pandemic. The correct and God-honoring move now is to stay the course. Continue doing ministry in your community and in the world. Continue making disciples of Jesus Christ. And, last but not least, continue praying praying for the United Methodist Church.
Now is not. the time to take our ball and go play in another yard.