By Rev. Daniel Foster | Puget Sound District Superintendent

The following column is republished with permission from July 8th “Spirit of Puget Sound” district newsletter under the heading “Daniel’s Desk.” 

Friends,

As it does once every four years, Annual Conference took place in that nether region between our General and Jurisdictional Conferences. General Conference was a disappointment to many in the PNW, and we won’t know for a few weeks whether or not Jurisdictional Conference will return Bishop Hagiya to us. The possibility exists that we could soon have an entirely new Episcopal leader. Lots happening at the moment, so it’s an interesting time to be a PNW United Methodist!

Puget Sound District Superintendent Daniel Foster
Puget Sound District Superintendent Daniel Foster

Adding to the interest level is the “Action of Non-Conformity w/ the General Conference” our AC just took (click here for full text). The floor vote was 315 for & 74 against with 6 abstaining, meaning it was an overwhelming vote of support. However, it also means that just over 20% of those voting were either not in favor, or chose to abstain. I was one of those. Why you ask?  Very simple. It was my understanding that GC had entrusted our Bishops with the responsibility of thoroughly examining all pertinent Disciplinary paragraphs in regard to human sexuality, and provide a recommendation which could include a special session of GC to deal specifically w/ this issue. I believe our AC vote did not support this.

As a DS I have a responsibility to support our Episcopal leadership, so in “good conscience” I didn’t feel I could vote in favor of non-conformity. Also, as a DS, I have a mandate to adhere to our UM Book of Discipline, which I take seriously. So until the Discipline changes its position on human sexuality, I will do my best to adhere to its present position.

Does that mean I will then be on some sort of “witch hunt?” Of course not. I’ve been in this position for five years, and I hope you’ve found me to be fair and supportive of everyone I deal with. And I will continue doing so. We are all in this together, no matter where we are on the theological/political divide. I believe that’s a major part of our denominational strength.

However, if you are in accord with the minority “20%,” I want you to know that you do not stand alone. You are still an important part of the PNW family. And if you need someone to help you process what you are feeling, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

United together,
Daniel

7 COMMENTS

  1. While I respect the position taken here, I am of the opinion that the changes needed will only happen by the very process that is being taken. Area by Area declaring thier inclusivness. So someday, we can in all clear concience say “We love and serve ALL people”

    • I agree with your assertion, and I honestly feel that what you suggested is exactly what is happening and will continue to happen. One by one, annual conferences will decide that our LBGT sisters and brothers will not be “transformed,” that they are born to be the people that they are, and certainly are not “sinners,” or living sinful lives. They love their spouses, just as those, who are not LBGT, love their spouses.
      This will happen, Janice, but it will take time, especially when it comes to the southern annual conferences.

  2. I hope that very soon that the twenty per cent of “non conformists,” will become sixty per cent, and then 80 per cent and finally…………….100 %. Kudos to you in the twenty per cent, you are brave, compassionate. kind and accepting. You are doing what Jesus would call you to do.

  3. Daniel, as much I disagree with you, you have been long faithful in your conformity with the doctrine. I continue to admire you for that.

  4. Daniel, I have always been in awe of the grace and pastoral care by which our PNW District Superintendents lead. I admire the work you all do. But I find myself in an awkward place: Not only do I disagree with you regarding your post of Non-Conformity, but also I feel compelled to speak out against your stand.

    If your circumstances were different, I wonder whether you would stand with the 20% who claim that policy and rules to justify actions or as a way forward. If you were not a D.S., if you were not a heterosexual, or if you were an oppressed people, would you be willing not to comply with non-Christian rules? (I realize the LGBTQI+ community within the PNW Conference is a small percent of the 80% who voted in the welcoming language of conformity.)

    Another issue of concern within this posting is that, as a D.S., you are in a position of power. And If I were a pastor in the Puget Sound district and belonged to the LGBTQI+ community (or in some circumstances even simply supported the LGBTQI+ community), I would feel put on notice based on your third paragraph. Thankfully, moving forward, the Board of Ordained Ministry has come out with welcoming language when recruiting, but it feels like quite a mixed message when read alongside your statement.

    I recently read a quote by James Howell posted on Facebook by a PNW Cabinet member: “I am positive God would be far more pleased if we would open our eyes, lift up our heads, get up off our knees, and go and do something. How pointless is it to continue to shudder over the news, and then ask God for comfort, when we aren’t doing anything to alter the conditions under which these killings continue to happen?” If we replace the word “killings” with any other injustice (such as homophobia, racism, or other unwelcoming sin), I think this would get us closer to a place of peace with each other – not only within our Conference, but everywhere.

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