In May of 2024, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church convened for the first time since a special called meeting in 2019.  Several big issues were taken up and addressed at this General Conference, including sacramental rights for ordained Deacons, better representation of young adults in church leadership, and making efforts to create more equitable relationships with our United Methodist brothers and sisters around the world.

For most of us, though, these other issues have been eclipsed by the conversations around human sexuality.  The General Conference acted to lift the prohibition against the ordination of homosexuals and to allow churches and pastors the latitude to host and perform marriages between persons of the same sex.

This does NOT mean that churches and pastors are required to take any action which violates their own conscience.  What it DOES mean is that each church and pastor will need to think through and make deliberate decisions for themselves on these issues.

At the same time, the General Conference also removed from the Discipline of the United Methodist Church the provisions for a church to disaffiliate from the denomination.  This move was unexpected by our own Kentucky leaders, who had coached Kentucky churches in good faith to be patient and wait to see exactly what the larger denomination was actually going to do.  This unanticipated decision by the General Conference has left those churches who exhibited patience and trust without an avenue for leaving the denomination.

Our Bishop and state level leadership are uncomfortable with this outcome and have committed themselves to seek a way to restore trust with our local churches by providing an exit path from the denomination for churches that feel compelled by conscience to do so.  As of the close of Annual Conference on June 12, 2024, Conference leaders believe they have identified such a path.  They are currently asking the judicial branch of the denomination for a legal ruling on whether the Conference leadership’s plan is constitutional under church law.  The timeline on the court’s decision is uncertain at the moment, as is its outcome.

As I announced to the congregation after General Conference, we will need to come together soon to have the very difficult conversations necessary around First United Methodist Church’s policies towards celebrating same-sex marriages and receiving homosexual clergy.  Please be patient while your church leaders make plans around how to best surround these conversations with a spirit of respect, compassion, and (above all) Spirit-filled prayer and love.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Bruce Nettleton, pastor

Our Church’s Response to General Conference 2024
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