A helpful text from my mother pointed out that I did not include a link to the resolution with the underlined and crossed out changes. Here it is: https://revcollins.com/gpac-petition/.
We have been overwhelmed by the response to John’s resolution. We expected 300 supporters total not more than 300 supporters in less than 24 hours. We are unable to keep up. I thank those who have already responded, but we would please ask you to respond again through this Google Form which will automatically tabulate the results. If you cannot, we’ll migrate your information for you. I apologize for the inconvenience. Please feel free to share the link below.
Blessings, John Collins
In response to the 2019 General Conference, I’ve written a Resolution for the Great Plains Annual Conference. You can find it here: https://revcollins.com/gpac-petition/. Clergy and any members of any local church in the Great Plains Annual Conference (that’s us) can sign it. Just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m doing this manually instead of on a site to try and make sure that everyone who signs up is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. But with over 300 responses already we’re a little bogged down. You can help by clearly listing which of the following applies to you: 1. Clergy Member of the Conference; 2. Lay Member of the Conference; 3. Member of a Local United Methodist Church (if so please include the name of the church, and the town/city and state). Thank you for your support.
I’ve been reading some of the coverage of the recent General Conference in non-United Methodist News Outlets. Many of them are missing a key element in their stories. That missing element is the fact that much of what was passed by General Conference was ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council (the UMC’s version of the United States Supreme Court) before it was even adopted. What was ruled unconstitutional before it was approved will almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional when the Judicial Council meets again April 23-25, 2019.  That means we’ll have to wait until then to really know where things stand. I’ve also read several stories that assume those who affirm LGBTQ folks will leave the church. That has not happened in the past. In the past, it has been the non-affirming churches that have left. I may very well be wrong, but my guess is that past is prelude.
 Linda Bloom, “Wrap-up: Judicial Council at GC2019,” United Methodist News Service, February 27, 2019, http://bit.ly/2T5xn8T.
The 2019 General Conference just approved the traditional plan (by a vote of 438 (53.28%) to 384 (46.72%)). Much of the plan was ruled unconstitutional before general conference by the Judicial Council (the UMC’s version of the Supreme Court). Most of the parts that were ruled unconstitutional were not amended before the plan was passed and thus are, one assumes, still unconstitutional. We’ll have to wait a while to learn the exact impact of today’s action by the General Conference.
As for Abilene First United Methodist Church, we are still a church of open hearts, open minds and open doors. All people, and all means all, are welcome at First United Methodist Church.
If you are hurting because of this decision or concerned about what will happen next please feel free to text or call Jenny or I.
Tomorrow (Saturday, February 23, 2019) delegates from around the world will gather for a special called General Conference Session in St. Louis, Missouri.
The first day of the conference will be devoted to prayer. We know the power of prayer in our congregation to provide healing and comfort, strength and peace. The results of prayer can change lives, we have witnessed this time and time again in our lives and the lives of our church family. Bishop Saenz has prepared a video detailing this day of prayer. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2GWlHy9.
On Saturday, I will be praying for the delegates, Bishops and staff at General Conference, as well as for our denomination and all United Methodists around the world. I invite you, wherever you happen to be on Saturday, to join me. This is an anxious time for our denomination. By centering ourselves in prayer as General Conference begins, perhaps the anxiety can be lessened and we will have a greater sense of the Holy Spirit surrounding all of us in the days ahead.
Legislative sessions for General Conference will begin on Sunday, February 24, 2019 and continue through Tuesday, February 26, 2019. If you are interested in watching the conference via livestream, you may do so by clicking on this link: http://bit.ly/2SZMsZW. (Note: the livestream has already started, at present there seems to be a band rehearsing.)
A word of caution. There will be a lot of information coming out via social media and secular media in the next few days. Please check your facts before sharing that information and remember that it isn’t over until it’s over. At the end of each day of conference there will be a daily wrap up sent out through the official United Methodist News Service. I will work to get the updates posted here so that you can see them. If you have any questions, please call, text or stop by the church. Jenny and I will do our best to answer all of your questions.
Remember too, that in the midst of all of this God still loves us, Jesus Christ still reigns at God’s right hand, and the Holy Spirit remains with us.
For the past two weeks, I’ve meant to write a calming, pastoral letter about the upcoming called General Conference meeting in a few weeks, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. Then, today, I received the following in the mail from Mainstream UMC. I’ve decided to share it instead of writing one of my own.
The One Church Plan is a strong, calm oasis among the clanging gongs and noisy cymbals of the other options at General Conference. This well thought out One Church Plan was created by the Commission on the Way Forward, endorsed by the Council of Bishops, and upheld by the Judicial Council. It is not radical. It does not force anyone out of the church or segregate us by belief. The One Church Plan maintains the Unity of the Church to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.
This rational plan stands in stark contrast to the chaos and crisis being ginned up by those who seek to divide the church. The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) posted another alarmist essay with made-up numbers guessing that “hundreds of congregations in every conference could lose twenty, thirty or forty percent of their membership” with the One Church Plan. Chris Ritter posted a guest blog that predicts, without evidence, “several hundred thousand US members will depart the existing denomination within 18 months” of the OCP passing. Tom Lambrecht has said plainly on video, “It is not possible for us to be in one denomination together.”
Schism is only possible if there is chaos and crisis. So those who seek to divide must create both.
The best thing we can do ahead of General Conference 2019 is take a collective deep breath. The 2016 General Conference asked the Bishops to lead. The Commission on the Way Forward represented all of us. They worked prayerfully for two years and came up with the One Church Plan as a genuine solution. Nearly 2/3 of the Council of Bishops prayerfully endorsed the One Church Plan. The Judicial Council prayerfully evaluated the One Church Plan and unanimously agreed that the United Methodist Constitution, “permits contextualization and differentiation on account of geographical, social, and cultural variations and makes room for diversity of beliefs and theological perspectives but does not require uniformity of moral-ethical standards regarding ordination, marriage, and human sexuality.”
The leaders of our church have prayerfully, calmly, and decisively spoken.
While some splinter groups are banging a drum of chaos and crisis, the leaders of our church have positioned us for mission and ministry in our diverse settings for the years ahead. Our leaders have reminded us, the only issue that should define our life together is faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Please pray that the Delegates of the 2019 General Conference can tune out the noise and follow the graceful way forward our leaders have prepared.
I would also add that the One Church plan will not change anything in our local church without the approval of this local church itself (by a vote of either the Church Council or a Charge/Church Conference).
Below is a statement posted on facebook yesterday [Friday, October 26, 2018] by Mainstream UMC. Information and elaborations contained in [brackets] are my additions for clarification.
The Judicial Council just released Decision 1366. It is very good news for the One Church Plan [the moderate plan] and devastating news for the Traditional Plan. Since the Connectional Conference Plan acknowledged the need up front for 8 constitutional amendments, the Judicial Council did not review it.
In short, the JC [Judicial Council] ruled only 3 minor provisions of the One Church Plan to be unconstitutional. But it ruled 7 of the 17 petitions of the Traditional Plan unconstitutional as well as 4 other provisions. It will take further review to see if the Traditional Plan can be revived by its supporters.
You can read the full decision on our website here (pro tip, you get the gist in the first 4 pages): https://mainstreamumc.com/…/10/JCD-1366-Docket-No1018-12.pdf 
An official, Great Plains Conference explanation of the three plans can be found here, or feel free to contact Jenny and me (John) with questions.
Here is the report from United Methodist news service, which includes the detail that the decision was unanimous.
 Mainstream UMC. Facebook post, October 26, 2018, 11:37 a.m., https://bit.ly/2RoWIFR.
Here’s the video of Rev. Dr. Mark Holland of Mainstream UMC speaking on the One Church Plan a few days ago (Wednesday, October 17, 2018) here at First United Methodist Church. You can visit them at MainstreamUMC.com/.
In response to the last post, I was asked: “Is this direction good or will be more division?” My answer is twofold, I think that in the long run, this will be a good direction, but in the short run, there will be more division. There is already a great deal of division, and we are already losing people on both sides of this debate. In my experience, those who want to uphold the traditional interpretation of the Bible tend to leave loudly in anger, while those who want to be more affirming of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters tend to leave quietly with sadness. For this reason, to merely continue to hold onto the status quo is not really feasible. Something needs to be done, and the way forward that the bishops have chosen maintains the vital unity of the church (something for which King Jesus himself prayed).
We have been through this before. In 1844, the church split over the issue of slavery and was then reunited when, after the civil war, all the biblical citations that could be mustered in slavery’s defense become moot points. More recently, we argued about how closely we would adhere to Jesus’s strict teachings on divorce—I have a colleague who was encouraged to surrender custody of his child so that the churches he might be appointed to would not guess that he was divorced—but that is no longer a live issue. We all seem to have arrived at the understanding that regardless of Matthew 19:3-12 and Mark 10:2-12, divorce does not disqualify someone from full participation in the church. Until 1956, we disagreed over the ordination of women, with many citing 1 Timothy 2:12 to support their opposition to the practice, but, at present, I know of only one United Methodist who even questions it.
I give the examples above because they are reminders that we have had fierce arguments over divisive issues in the past, but a new consensus always eventually emerged. I think the same is true of the issue of homosexuality. This proposed way forward makes space for a new consensus to emerge.
The Council of Bishops has met and endorsed “The One Church Plan.” According to the summary on umc.org:
To find a way forward on the denomination’s homosexuality debate, bishops are recommending the church allow more freedom at the conference and local church levels.
Under what the Council of Bishops calls the One Church Plan, decisions about whether to ordain LGBTQ clergy or to officiate at same-gender unions would be made closer to the congregational level.
The plan would remove the restrictive language against the practice of homosexuality in the Book Discipline, the denomination’s policy book. The plan also adds assurances to pastors and conferences who in good conscience cannot perform same-sex weddings or ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy that they don’t have to do so. 
Our understanding (Jenny’s and mine) is that if this plan is approved by General Conference (a big if) it would leave individual annual conferences to decide whether or not to ordain LGBT folk and individual congregations and pastors to decide whether or not marriages between same-sex couples would be performed in a local church. Bishop Saenz has a pastoral letter here: http://bit.ly/2jtP3qw.
 United Methodist Communications, “Bishops Propose Plan for Way Forward,” The United Methodist Church, May 04, 2018, accessed May 04, 2018, http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-propose-plan-for-way-forward.