By now you have likely heard about the outcome of the United Methodist Special General Conference held earlier this week. Needless to say, I experienced moments of great pain, disappointment, sadness, and utter disbelief along with many of my colleagues. Though the conference voted to approve the “Traditional Plan” which basically keeps things as they currently are, there remain many layers to be sorted out since much of the plan was also voted unconstitutional. The Traditional Plan has now been turned over to the Judicial Council for reconsideration which will meet in April.

Bishop Bickerton has called a special meeting of the New York Annual Conference on Saturday, March 16th to provide further details and PAUMC will hold a Town Hall meeting on Sunday, March 24 where I will share the information available to us.

On Monday (before the final vote), I received the following letter from two of our members that summarizes their witness and affirms why we do what we do:

Dear Pastor Cathy:

We missed you at church yesterday, but we are grateful for your presence at a moment when historical decisions are made in our church in regard to members of the LGBTQI community. Isaiah gave a very touching sermon, full of compassion and love; Rebecca reminded us of a powerful lesson: God is with us, each one of us, always and everywhere. Besides, we had the opportunity to celebrate the talented Derrick for his birthday. It was a very lovely service.

We frequently remember how we came to Park Avenue United Methodist Church last year on Easter Sunday, without expectations. Your presence as Pastor and the diversity of the community allowed us to see how special PAUMC is. We were raised in Christian families (Mark as a Methodist and William as a Catholic) and, as many individuals with non-normative gender expression and sexual orientations, we took the heartbreaking decision to move away from a Church that condemns our very own essence. Although deeply painful, our physical absence from church never affected our personal connection to God and our desire for belonging. For these reasons, the loving welcome that you and all the PAUMC’s members have offered us since the first day we attended means so much to us. For the first time in years, we feel again welcome and encouraged to be active members of a Church in which love, beyond any denomination, was a tangible entity that connected all the parishioners.

We want to thank you for all your support and spiritual guidance. We are praying for the leaders who have the power to make this important decision, to be guided by feelings of love and empathy.

Looking forward to seeing you soon and hearing the news.

Wish you a great week!

Mark Leininger and William Ruiz

I am not certain what will happen next for the United Methodist Church, but what I am certain of is God’s extravagant love for all people without distinction. I stand firm and fully affirm our LGBTQIA+ love ones. I hope you do too.

Grace and peace,
Pastor Cathy