calendar May 9, 2024 in News

Pastoral Letter on the United Methodist Church General Conference

May 8, 2024

Dear church,

In 1 Corinthians 12:26 the apostle Paul reminds us that “if one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” For 15 years we have accompanied our full-communion siblings in the United Methodist Church (UMC) through joyous and challenging times. We know firsthand the pain of debate, disaffiliation and division that they have experienced. Yet we also know the hope-filled renewal of Christ’s church.

Last week the UMC General Conference, postponed since 2020, concluded in Charlotte, N.C. With each day’s news we witnessed our partner church emerging strengthened, revitalized and united. Several actions will shape the future of the UMC. These include the adoption of a plan for worldwide regionalization to restructure the UMC as a truly equitable, diverse and global church, which now goes to annual conferences for ratification. Regionalization will allow for unity within the worldwide UMC structure, even as members hold diverse opinions on the following actions:

  • Lifting a 40-year ban on the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy.
  • Lifting restrictions on clergy to officiate at, and on congregations to host, weddings between adults of the same gender.
  • Eliminating from the UMC’s Social Principles the assertion that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.
  • Broadening the definition of marriage to be between either a man and a woman or two consenting adults.

The UMC welcomed over 70 ecumenical guests, who were present when the conference adopted a proposal for full communion with The Episcopal Church (TEC); this now awaits action by the TEC General Convention. Worship included a postponed celebration of full communion with the Moravian Church in America (Northern and Southern provinces), ratified in 2018, and a sermon titled “Christian Unity Matters,” preached by the Rev. Dr. Jerry Pillay, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

These significant actions and the UMC’s witness to the ecumenical vocation we share come as we celebrate 15 years of full communion. The ELCA rejoices and gives thanks to God for the opportunity to proclaim together, from this point forward, that Christian teaching is for all people and that the gifts of all are welcome and needed to serve Christ’s church.

In unity,

The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America