Called General Conference 2019

In News by Kim Eiffert

Response to General Conference 2019 of the UMC
Praying for a Return to Covenant

I have always believed there is a subtle, yet important, difference between a contract and a covenant.  A contract is based on what one can expect, require or demand from the other party in the contract.  A covenant is based on what someone is willing to offer.  A contract is held together by rules and stipulations.  A covenant is held together by love, trust and mutual respect.

At the 2019 General Conference Special Session of the United Methodist Church, we went from being a covenant community to a contract community. Let me be clear to say every covenant will have some rules (i.e. Our General Rules) and the contractual nature of the Traditional Plan is not without some loving intent, however what was proposed and passed at GC 2019 was more rules; more legalism resulting in more exclusion and harm.

It is unfortunate that our already bloated Book of Discipline added more stipulations, but even more troubling is that the justification for doing so came from a theology that believes that the Bible is primarily a rule book. Anyone who has studied an overview of the Bible or taken a Disciple 1 class knows better.

It is one thing to now have all these new rules.  It is another thing to enforce them.  Covenant partners offer themselves in love to the relationship or the greater community.  Contract participants must have an authoritarian policing force. Who now is going to enforce these rules? Who is going to be the police force?  Certainly not the majority of Bishops who the Traditionalists castigated and called ineffective throughout the process leading up to GC 2019. And even if they were willing, do you think there are enough of them or this is the best use of their time as leaders?

This much I know.  There are not enough Rules Police in the UMC or the world to stop the power of covenantal love that has been awakened among our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters and those of us who see their value and beauty. We will continue to fight (including civil disobedience if necessary) for their full inclusion in every aspect of the Church.

I pray for a return to covenant.

With you on Grace Avenue,
Billy Echols-Richter
Grace Avenue United Methodist Church
Pastor