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First regional meeting addresses recovery, Way Forward

First regional meeting addresses recovery, Way Forward

Conference News Way Forward

Bishop Ken Carter, in his first of three regional meetings around the state, addressed a topic that weighs heavily on the minds of many in the Florida Conference: the LGBTQ community and how it fits in The United Methodist Church.

Bishop Ken Carter addressed questions at Hyde Park UMC in Tampa on Sunday evening. The session was the first of three regional discussions being held this week. Carter is also appearing in Loxahatchee and in Jacksonville.

During the 2016 General Conference, there was a stalemate on the subject, a “stuckness,” if you will, he told those gathered at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa. The general conference approved, barely, he said, the Commission on a Way Forward. It is a select group of 32 pastors, lay members and bishops who will address the issue and present a report in 2019 with recommendations on how the Church can recognize the different theological understandings and expressions on human sexuality.

He also spoke about the need to incorporate various cultures within the churches, reflecting the communities that surround them. And he talked about the need to reach out to the community in times of chaos, like the recent weeks following Hurricane Irma.

The Commission on a Way Forward, according to its website, was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to conduct a thorough examination and possible revisions to the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality. It will explore options that can help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.

Does he think there will be a schism? “No,” he said. “But there are those that do and already are planning for a split in the conference.

“There is a tension within the church over the issue of acceptance of the LGBTQ community,” he said.

“How do you write a way of living for a global church? It felt better to do that over a period of months rather than in a room in 15 or 20 minutes,” Bishop Carter said.

“We are getting started with that and working on how we can be a church that finds a way forward, beyond the impasse that we have.”

Even in the very sanctuary where he spoke Sunday, Carter said, there was great diversity in thinking. “In some countries, this would be absolutely a non-issue; and in some countries, a person can be killed by law for this. We do ministry in all these kinds of places.”

Carter said he hopes the church will not become smaller and like-minded but will find unity.

“We are not a perfect denomination, but God does amazing things through us,” he said.

“The world doesn’t need another model of division,” Carter emphasized. “Every other denomination in the U.S. has had some form of division. I am not naïve about it, but am hopeful.

“There is something in me that says the next generations deserve to have a church that gives them the same opportunities to serve God, to love their neighbor that I have (had),” Carter said.

Hyde Park UMC Senior Pastor Magrey deVega opened the regional discussion by talking about the great needs in Florida following Hurricane Irma and announcing that the night’s offering would go to help meet those needs.

In traveling the state to places hard hit by the hurricane, like Immokalee, Sebring and Naples, Carter said he saw people who had lost everything. But he also saw people surrounded by the church, something that must continue, he suggested.

This week Carter will also speak at Community of Hope UMC in Loxahatchee and Mandarin UMC in Jacksonville.

--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer based in Valrico.

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