Bishop Fairley: "There is more to United Methodists than the debate over human sexuality"
posted on June 20
When United Methodists from throughout Kentucky met in Owensboro June 4-7 for our 2023 Annual Conference, much was made in news reports about the 286 churches that were approved to leave the denomination. We understand the interest. Since 2019, the Kentucky Annual Conference has provided five opportunities for churches to disaffiliate under a provision created by the United Methodist General Conference for congregations that are conflicted over the denomination’s long-standing debate over human sexuality.
However, there is more to our identity as United Methodists than difficult times of discernment around human sexuality. We want to share who we are with others.
So, who are United Methodist, exactly?In Kentucky, we have United Methodist churches that span almost the entire commonwealth. Together, the United Methodist denomination in Kentucky is 350 churches with 84,000 members. These are churches and people committed to Christ and to the communities where they serve. Our remaining members are ready to step into a new reality with a leaner, nimbler desire to “Show the Love of God” – which just happened to be the theme of our 2023 gathering. As United Methodists, both clergy and nonclergy, we are called to serve as disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
We will show the love of God by starting new faith communities throughout Kentucky.The Rev. Dr. Kimberly Pope-Seiberling, the conference’s director of New Church Development, sees a bright future: “Every week I hear about a new church who wants to do something new and dream big dreams.” We show the love of God by feeding the hungry. Our churches provide sit-down meals, sponsor food pantries, and participate in backpack ministries.
We show the love of God by rebuilding communities after natural disasters. Between the December 2021 tornadoes in western Kentucky and the July 2022 flooding in eastern Kentucky, The United Methodist Church has answered the call to help our neighbor by providing housing in the immediate aftermath and by sending teams to help with rebuilding.
We show the love of God by introducing children and youth to that love at summer camp. Each year our two camps, Loucon and Aldersgate, host hundreds of children and teens. We also robustly support the mission of the Kentucky United Methodist Children’s Homes.
We show the love of God by nurturing young adults with our campus ministries. We have active ministries on 11 campuses in Kentucky, including all eight public universities.
We show the love of God in our churches by nurturing all age groups with spiritual growth and fellowship opportunities.
What fuels this desire in United Methodists to continually show the love of God? It is in our DNA; we are a denomination and a people born of the movement of the Holy Spirit.
We hold the same beliefs about Jesus that the church has held for 2,000 years.We share the same core beliefs that nondenominational churches, Catholics, Baptists, Anglicans and others have about Jesus. The Bible is the most significant voice and guide of the way we live as Christians. We believe that God gave us the Bible and that it shows us the truth and trains us to live God’s way.
We believe that God loves everyone. As John 3:17 says, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through him.” We know that God gives us his love and power so that we can have a relationship with him. We believe that Jesus is God’s Son, and that Jesus is God. We believe that he died for everyone, came back to life, went back to heaven, gave us his Spirit and will return for the church.We also believe everyone is welcome in church. Whatever our past, Jesus has a place for each of us in his family and at his dinner table. We strive to follow the “3 simple rules” of John Wesley, Methodism’s founder: “Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God."