Pastoral Letter on General Conference 2019 / Carta Pastoral sobre la Conferencia General 2019

March 2, 2019

Beloved Sisters and Brothers at Echo Park United Methodist Church:

By now you have heard that our United Methodist General Conference voted to approve a legislative plan that expands our denomination’s longstanding policies of discrimination against the LGBTQ community and its allies.

The full impact of this Plan will not be known for some time, and yet there can be little doubt that grave harm has already been done to the unity and integrity of The United Methodist Church. A majority of the General Conference has sent a clear message to those of us who identify as LGBTQ that we are not really welcome in this community of faith. The UMC will not embrace us as children of God created in the image of God. It will not welcome us as vital members of the body of Christ. It will not celebrate or honor our loving relationships. It will neither recognize nor receive our gifts and graces for ministry. And it will punish those who seek in various ways to incorporate us into the fullness of the Church’s life and mission.

The plan adopted by the General Conference contrasts starkly with the teachings of the apostle Paul who affirms that we need each other if we are truly going to be the body of Christ:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

As Paul reminds us elsewhere in the same chapter, the Spirit alone has the right to “allot [gifts] to each one individually, just as the Spirit chooses.” (1 Cor. 12:11) So, in spite of the General Conference’s recent decision, our task as a Church is not to judge and exclude, but to encourage and celebrate the gifts that God has given, even to those of us who are LGBTQ.

A week before the General Conference, this congregation voted overwhelmingly to become a Reconciling Congregation. In our Statement of Reconciliation, we affirmed that:

We share the Gospel and Spirit of Jesus Christ and open our community to all, especially those who are hurt or who have been left out because of racial differences, ethnic origin, gender identity, legal or immigration status, language, sexual orientation, all who have suffered abuse or abandonment by society, or even by the church.

We may not always be of a common mind about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, but we understand the need to create a faith community that does not discriminate. That is why we have chosen to work together under the inspiration of the Spirit to build and expand God’s reign of justice and peace… especially for those who, like our LGBTQ siblings, have been excluded and harmed by teachings and practices that lead to discrimination and exclusion

Significantly, we are not alone in this struggle. There are churches and conferences, lay people, ministers, and bishops who are already working together to create a fully inclusive Church. The Spirit is working in powerful ways to ensure that God’s will truly is done on earth just as it is in heaven.

Let me conclude by reassuring our LGBTQ siblings both inside and outside this faithful body of believers called Echo Park United Methodist Church: You are welcome here to practice your faith, to find spiritual support and care, to participate in the ministries of this congregation, to serve as leaders, and to receive the full range of pastoral and ministerial services that we have to offer. “We are people of Christ’s new creation, called to be ministers of reconciliation.” Thanks be to God!

May God bless you now and always!

Rev. Frank Wulf

Pastor


2 de marzo 2019

Estimados Hermanos y Hermanas de la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Echo Park:

Ya han escuchado que nuestra Conferencia General Metodista Unida ha votado a aprobar un plan legislativo que amplia las políticas antiguas de nuestra deonominación de discriminación contra la comunidad LGBT y sus aliados.

El impacto total de este plan no será conocido durante algún tiempo. Sin embargo, puede haber poca duda de que un daño grave ya se ha hecho a la unidad e integridad de La Iglesia Metodista Unida. Una mayoría de la Conferencia General ha enviado un mensaje claro a aquellos de nosotros que se identifican como LGBT que no seamos realmente bienvenidos en esta comunidad de fe. La IMU no nos abrazará como hijos e hijas de Dios creados al imagen de Dios. No nos dará la bienvenida como miembros vitales del cuerpo de Cristo. No celebrará ni honrará nuestras relaciones amorosas. No reconocerá ni recibirá nuestros dones y gracias para el ministerio. Y castigará a quienes tratan de diversas maneras para incorporarnos a la plenitud de la vida y misión de la Iglesia.

El plan aprobado por la Conferencia General contrasta claramente con las enseñanzas del apóstol Pablo quien afirma que necesitamos los unos a los otros si verdaderamente vamos a ser el cuerpo de Cristo:

 Así como el cuerpo es uno, y tiene muchos miembros, pero todos los miembros del cuerpo, siendo muchos, son un solo cuerpo, así también Cristo, porque por un solo Espíritu fuimos todos bautizados en un cuerpo, tanto judíos como griegos, tanto esclavos como libres; y a todos se nos dio a beber de un mismo Espíritu. (1 Co. 12:12-13)

Como Pablo nos recuerda en otra parte del mismo capítulo, el Espíritu solo tiene el derecho de “repartir [dones] a cada uno en particular como él quiere.” (1 Co. 12:11) Así que, a pesar de la reciente decisión de la Conferencia General, nuestra tarea no es juzgar y excluir, sino animar y celebrar los dones que Dios ha dado, incluso a aquellos que son LGBT.

Una semana antes de la Conferencia General, esta congregación votó abrumadoramente para convertirse en una Congregación de Reconciliación. En nuestra Declaración de Reconciliación, afirmamos:

Compartimos el Evangelio y el Espíritu de Jesucristo y abrimos nuestra comunidad a todos, especialmente aquellos que están heridos o que han sido excluidos debido a diferencias raciales, origen étnico, identidad de género, estatus legal o migratorio, idioma, orientación sexual, todos los que han sufrido el abuso o el abandono por la sociedad o aún más por la iglesia.

No siempre somos de la misma opinión sobre cuestiones relacionadas a la orientación sexual y la identidad de género, pero comprendemos la necesidad de crear una comunidad de fe que no discrimina. Esta es la razón por la cual hemos decidido trabajar juntos bajo la inspiración del Espíritu Santo para construir y ampliar el reino de Dios de justicia y paz… especialmente para aquellos que, como nuestros hermanos y hermanas LGBT, han sido lastimados por enseñanzas y prácticas que llevan a la discriminación y la exclusión.

Es significativo que no estamos solos en esta lucha. Hay iglesias y conferencias, laicos, ministros, y obispos que ya están trabajando juntos para crear una Iglesia que es totalmente inclusiva. El Espíritu está trabajando en maneras poderosas para asegurar que la voluntad de Dios se hace verdaderamente en la tierra como en el cielo.

Permítanme concluir asegurando a nuestros hermanos y hermanas LGBT dentro y fuera de este cuerpo fiel de creyentes que se llama la Iglesia Metodista Unida de Echo Park: Ustedes son bienvenidos aquí para practicar su fe, para encontrar apoyo y cuidado espiritual, para participar en los ministerios de esta congregación, para servir como líderes, y para recibir la gama complete de servicios pastorales y ministeriales que tenemos para ofrecer. “Somos personas de la nueva creación de Jesucristo llamadas para ser ministros de la reconciliación.” ¡Gracias a Dios!

¡Que Dios los bendiga ahora y siempre!

El Rev. Frank Wulf

Pastor

Advertisements

A Pastoral Letter on Gun Violence

In the Wake of the Mass Shooting in Las Vegas

To the beloved community of God’s People at Echo Park UMC: 

Grace and peace in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ: 

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. — 1 John 4:7-8 (CEB)

We awoke on Monday morning to news of one more mass shooting in the United States… this time in Las Vegas, Nevada. We don’t know much about the shooter or why he did what we did. All that we know for sure was that he killed 59 people, and wounded 528 others, some of them very seriously. 

Our hearts are broken! How could it be otherwise? As followers of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, we know that this act of violence stands in stark contrast to God’s good and loving will for humanity. God has called us to build communities where all can dwell together in compassion, abundance, and security. But, we have instead created a world that is dominated by suspicion, scarcity, and fear. Mass murders like those that have recently taken place in Las Vegas, Orlando, Charlotte, and Sandy Hook point to the brokenness of our society and underscore our need for real healing and transformation. 

Of course, major mass shootings with high casualty counts are just the tip of our gun-violence iceberg in the United States. A mass shooting (defined as an event in which more than four people are shot) happens every day. Hundreds die each year in these mass-shooting episodes and thousands more are left with debilitating injuries. At the same time, tens of thousands more die or are wounded by guns each year through suicides, homicides and accidents. 

The time has come to realize that more is needed than just anguished prayers. As Jesus’ followers, we need become actively involved in working to end the epidemic of gun violence that is eating away at our nation’s soul. This may compel some to engage in political advocacy for common-sense gun control. It may call others to do intensive work to mend the fabric of our fractured communities through efforts at re-building neighborliness and re-establishing trust. It may push others to address the root causes of our national addiction to violence. It will include all of us in a vast and powerful movement to build a world where authentic justice is done, where prosperity is shared, where fear is swallowed up in love, and where peace becomes a reality. 

In his pastoral letter to the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, United Methodist Bishop Robert Hoshibata has offered several resources that we can use as we seek to respond to the violence in Las Vegas and to address issues of gun violence more broadly. I invite you to read Bishop Hoshibata’s letter and to make use of the resources he recommends:

Bishop Hoshibata’s Pastoral Letter:

https://dscumc.org/2017/10/responding-las-vegas-shooting/

United Methodist Resources on Gun Violence Prevention:

https://www.umcjustice.org/what-we-care-about/peace-with-justice/gun-violence-prevention

What United Methodists Believe about Gun Violence: 

www.umc.org/what-we-believe/ways-united-methodists-can-take-a-stand-against-gun-violence

United Methodist Resources on Caring for People after Traumatic Events:

https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/after-traumatic-events-listen 

I also commend to you, our own Bishop Grant Hagiya’s Call to Prayer, which has already been posted on our Echo Park UMC website and Facebook page. 

Finally, I invite all of us to be in prayer for Caroline Luat-Young’s friend, Cathy G., who was present at the concert in Las Vegas and was among the wounded. She is currently in ICU with a bullet lodged in her arm. 

May God bless you now and always,

Pastor Frank

CALL TO PRAYER ON THE LAS VEGAS SHOOTING

 BishopGrantHagiya  Bishop Grant Hagiya

California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  — 1 Corinthians 13:1 (New International Version)

I know that God is in agony over the nearly 60 lives lost and those hundreds of people fighting for their lives because of the shooting that occurred this past weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The many victims of what is now considered the deadliest mass shooting in the United States in recent history include the colleagues, neighbors, and loved ones of many of us here in the California-Pacific Conference region.

We have been left with trying to make sense of a totally senseless act of violence. Not only will we continue to ask the questions of how and why, what and where, for ourselves, we will have to guide our children and young people through such tough questions as well.

As a United Methodist follower of Jesus Christ, I believe that our words alone will not be enough in bringing about genuine healing in times such as these. What we must rely upon is the transformative love of God to be the true balm that will ultimately bring about peace in ourselves and in our society.

We, the California-Pacific Conference, can love transformatively as we embrace in prayer all those directly affected by the violence, as we stay connected with Bishop Robert Hoshibata and our sister conference, the Desert Southwest Conference, which includes Las Vegas, Nevada, as we open our church sanctuaries for spiritual centering and comfort, and as we support and participate in the work of our Cal-Pac Peace with Justice and the General Board of Church and Society to end gun violence.

The California-Pacific Conference is, unfortunately, no stranger to such incidents of mass violence.  But, let us step forward in courage and faith once again so that all may experience God’s life-giving and transformative love.

Be the Hope,

Bishop Grant J. Hagiya

Los Angeles Episcopal Area

The United Methodist Church