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A Letter of Reflection on the UMC Judicial Council Ruling – Jessica Gamaché

01 May 2019 8:13 PM | Jen Burch (Administrator)

Dear Camp and Retreat Ministry friends and colleagues,

As many of you may have heard by now, the United Methodist Judicial Council made some important decisions last week. My hope is this letter will inspire you to seek an understanding of how this moment in our denomination’s path will impact your ministry setting and those you walk beside in mission. 

Need some more context? Following the called Special General Conference in February, the Judicial Council, United Methodism's "Supreme Court," was called upon to rule on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan approved by that General Conference. Read more from United Methodist News Service

First, I would like to share my understanding of the Judicial Council Decision 1378. Of the 15 Traditional Plan petitions that were passed in February at the special called General Conference, eight were ruled constitutional and seven were ruled unconstitutional. The parts of the Traditional Plan that will be implemented as church law, effective January 1, 2020 (and later in 2021 for the Central Conferences – outside of the US) will bring a more detailed definition of what it means to be a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual” to the Book of Discipline, mandate specific penalties for clergy who violate the rules around conducting same gender unions, and provide clarity on the parameters of the complaint process. The parts of the Traditional Plan that will not be implemented include: tighter accountability for Bishops, stricter requirements of Boards of Ministry (example – conducting an examination of each candidate to ascertain whether an individual is a practicing homosexual), and mandated financial penalties for Annual Conferences that are not in compliance with requirements around human sexuality. An additional decision was passed (Decision 1379) and declared constitutional allowing local congregations and clergy to enter into a disaffiliation agreement for “a gracious exit” from the denomination.

The effect of these decisions is being felt in various ways and at varying degrees across our camp and retreat connection. There is not one correct interpretation or plan for moving forward that applies to all of our UMCRM sites. However, in order to truly come alongside one another in this next season of ministry, it is vital that we stay in relationship with our local communities and in healthy, compassionate, open-minded communication with the leadership of our Annual Conferences. Gracious communication about these matters and an unwillingness to criticize those with whom we disagree are necessary to the integrity of our collective ministry. I would also like to hold up the opportunity of finding support and counsel in your UMCRM colleagues as we navigate the course together.

As this journey continues, I hope that we can all remember these important sentiments:

  • Although there is a divide within our denomination, this divide is not between people who love Jesus or people who believe in the Bible and those who do not love or believe. No, it is a divide between Christ-following people who have come to different interpretations about how the Bible is to be read and applied. Our role in camp and retreat ministries is to be a place for all Christ-following people (and those who do not yet know Christ), where they can have the space to come to their own understanding of God’s mysterious and wondrous plan for their life.
  • Within the congregations that we serve, all across the country, there is a wide diversity of people with equally wide perspectives and convictions. By our camp and retreat centers being safe, sacred places set apart from everyday life, we can be a source of inspiration for others to become more attentive to the diversity of thought that surrounds us. Through worship, play, and relationship, people from a variety of perspectives and experiences are together, practicing living in holy community. This is an honest expression of sharing the truth that “You are loved.”
  • Finally, United Methodist Camp and Retreat Ministries will continue to have a crucial and wonderful ministry to offer to the world for the sake of Jesus Christ, in a unique way that no one else can. We can’t shy away from proclaiming the importance of our ministry. Now is the time to find courage to reach out to donors and find new ways of promoting your ministry so these holy places of “creative dislocation” continue to grow in the future.

James 5:16 – “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

I am with you in this, friends, and I pray for you daily. Together, let’s continue to pray for our denomination, Bishops and Cabinets, local church leaders, congregations, and one another. Let’s pray for continued guidance along this complex route which we find ourselves traveling, giving thanks that we are traveling it together. I am grateful to be alongside you in this journey.

God bless,

Jessica Gamaché
UMCRM Board of Directors, Vice-Chair

Jessica Gamaché is the Camping Coordinator for the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. She has served on the UMCRM Board since 2015. 

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