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Oxford Pastor Reflects on UMC’s Decision to Uphold ‘Traditional Plan’

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

Eddie Rester, senior pastor of the Oxford University United Methodist Church, was present at this year’s UMC General Conference. Photo by Talbert Toole.

The United Methodist Church held its 2019 General Conference Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis where it upheld highly-contested legislation known as ‘The Traditional Plan’ and rejected the ‘One Church Plan,’ which would allow individual churches and regional annual conferences to decide whether to ordain and marry its LGBTQ members.

‘The Traditional Plan’ passed with a 438 to 384 vote (a narrow 53 percent to 47 percent vote), and the ‘One Church Plan’ was struck down.

The conference housed a total of 864 delegates who represented over 12 million United Methodists from 132 countries over the course of three days in St. Louis.

In attendance was Eddie Rester, pastor of Oxford University United Methodist Church (OU). Rester released a statement where he reflected on his experience at the conference along with the church’s decision to uphold traditional viewpoints. 

He said in the statement that this conference was an experience he had never experienced.

“Yes, there was political maneuvering that mirrored anything we see in Washington, D.C.,” he stated. “But more than that, there was my church family attempting to do the hard and difficult work of the church.”

Rester stated that many members of OUUMC are worried and concerned by the church’s decision to uphold the current language concerning marriage and ordination; however, he stated that before the General Conference that OUUMC would remain the same when the conference started and when it ended.

“We remain committed to embracing all people—people with a deep faith and no faith; people with fears and doubts and questions; people who are young and old; conservative and liberal; gay and straight; black and white; and everything in between,” his statement read.

In his statement, Rester reassured that the church has sought, and will continue to seek and create a community where people committed to Christ can disagree about matters of sexuality, among other issues., and find discover a common ground in how members live out their faith together.

“This is who we were last Sunday,” Rester stated. “It’s who we are today. It’s who we’ll be tomorrow.”

James Edward Swanson Sr., the resident bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church, said in an interview with Jasmine Haynes, lay leader of the Middlebrook UMC, said that even though ‘The Traditional Plan’ has passed the church will vet the plan through the judicial council.

Swanson said the judicial council will determine if the plan is constitutional in the church.

“If it is constitutional, it will go into effect as of January 1, 2020,” he said.

The biggest issue for church members in Mississippi is not the fact that the church passed this specific plan, but how members will live together in Mississippi, Swanson said.

Even though the church has a plan and now a rule of how the church will address sexuality in a legal matter, he wants members to understand who members are in Christ Jesus, he said.

“We are still called to love each other,” Swanson said.

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