Summer of Denominational Discernment

Grace and peace to you, today, friends, in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

As I write this, I am back in office after spending part of the Memorial Day weekend attending the Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church in Downtown Houston. I am pleased to say your church was well-represented, with 10 clergy and 20 lay delegates attending.

It is customary for the Conference agenda to be filled with a variety of topics for presentation, discussion and votes, and this year was no different. But the one topic that continues to draw the most attention and energy is the impending split of our current UMC denomination which, honestly, has been brewing within the denomination for a while.

Let me briefly share the reasons for separation, what happened at Texas Annual Conference and some advance notice of our next steps as a congregation.

Some of you may be aware of the long-standing debate over LGBTQIA+ persons being ordained as clergy or being married in the UMC despite our current Book of Discipline disallowing such activities. This issue has been a flashpoint of controversy for several decades and continues to capture headlines. (We have always welcomed and will continue to welcome LGBTQIA+ persons in our lay worship and program ministries.)

Separate from matters of human sexuality and gender identity — already heavy and complex topics to address — are shifting theologies among some United Methodist bishops, pastors and seminary scholars that call into question our traditional, centuries-held beliefs about Christianity, the Bible and Jesus. I believe these matters pose a great threat to Wesleyan Christianity in the 21st century.

Why do I share all this now? The time is quickly approaching when the members of The Woodlands Methodist Church will play a role in determining the future affiliation path for our church.

In the absence of clear guidelines for consistent and fair separation that will not be considered until the United Methodist General Conference in 2024, each Annual Conference, led by its presiding bishop, was tasked with setting their own parameters for parting ways at the local church level. Those terms and supporting activities are now known and finalized following the conclusion of business at Texas Annual Conference.

Friends, this is a historic moment in both the life of our church and in my ministry. The tension in our denomination has been building over these issues for decades, and yet, here I am — less than a year into my role as your leader — called to shepherd our faith community entrusted to my care. I firmly believe I have been called to serve as your Senior Pastor for such a time as this.

As we move forward together, join me in praying over our church, our denomination and our conversations in the days ahead. I believe greater things are in store for us all. May the Lord lead, the Spirit guide and God be given the glory through it all.

In His grace,

— Mark