“The Encouragement of our Ancestors”

Posted By Beckie Sweet on May 12, 2024 | 0 comments

May 12, 2024 ~ 7th Sunday of Easter ~ Ascension Sunday ~ Mother’s Day

Rev. Beckie Sweet


One day four ministers stood talking and, as so often happens, the conversation soon drifted away from secular niceties, to shop talk.  “I prefer the King James Version of Scripture,” said one, “for its eloquent use of the English language.”  A second minister gave forth that no Bible could match the New American Standard for its faithfulness to the original Greek and Hebrew text.  “That may well be,” said the third, “but I prefer the New International Version for its contemporary language and easy readability.”  There was a thoughtful period of silence, and then the fourth minister said, “I like my mother’s translation best.”  It was with some surprise that the others said: “We didn’t know that your mother had translated the Bible.”  “Yes, she did,” the minister replied.  “She translated it into her daily life, and it was through her translation that I came to faith.”

I thought it fitting, on this Mother’s Day, that we remember two mothers in particular: Lois, who was grandmother of Timothy, and Eunice, Timothy’s mother.   I want to honor the heritage given Timothy because a mother and a grandmother loved him enough to give him their most precious possession: the gift of faith.  It was a gift that flourished in young Timothy!

So confident was the Apostle Paul of Timothy’s faith that, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he called Timothy “my true son in the faith.”  Here, in this second letter, in essence Paul said:  “Timothy, I know your grandmother, and her faith is authentic.  It is the same faith I have observed in your mother, and after having watched you all this time I am convinced of your faith also.”  Lois and Eunice showed Timothy by word and example what it means to live an authentic faith; a faith from which hypocrisy is totally absent, the real thing, genuine, sincere.  What higher accolade or greater tribute could be given any mother or grandmother on this Mother’s Day than to say: You gave me authentic faith!

It was my grandmother, Wilma Alice Frantz Moore, who took the time to talk with me the first time I was curious about sexuality, gender expression, and what was, for a sheltered pastor’s kid, romantic attractions I had never heard about or experienced.  I stammered through a couple of questions as we sat in the safe space of her living room filled with a quilt frame, and she responded, “God has created each of us to be unique and special, you know that.  Some of that uniqueness includes differences in who we love, what we love, and the ways that we love.  God created humans and all creatures with these differences, and God called each one GOOD.

That was that.  If my grandmother said it, it was as good as Gospel to me!  It was only a couple of months later when a funeral director called me.  He was desperate.  A young man had died of AIDS.  His family wanted a Christian memorial services, but none of the other pastors he had called would conduct the service.  I agreed to lead the service, and afterward suggested that the funeral director call me first for similar situations in the future.  The families needed God’s love, conveyed by the church.  They needed to know that their loved one who succumbed to AIDS was a precious child of God.

That was when I began a journey toward making the church, the United Methodist Church, fully inclusive.  Because of the authentic words of a wise ancestor, and an attitude of love and acceptance which was echoed by my mother, I gained the courage to begin speaking God’s truth to those who were in power.  It became important to me to shatter the human assumptions of knowing the heart of God concerning those assumed to be outside of God’s loving embrace.  It became one of my missions in ministry to open the proverbial gate in the house of the Lord for all to enter, receive warm hospitality, and spiritual nurture.

I was certainly not alone in that mission.  I continually received the encouragement of my ancestors to join with others with a passion for finding a way to open that gate for our LGBTQIA+ siblings to be treated equally in all ways in the life of the church.

During our UM General Conference this year, we turned the corner in making that mission a reality in the UMC.  Many of you know that General Conference is the top lawmaking assembly of the UMC and the only entity that speaks for the denomination.  It convenes every four years, with delegates from the denomination’s regions around the world.  As I mentioned at our luncheon a few weeks ago, I went with a 3R priority: Regionalization, Revised Social Principles, and Removal of harmful language related to LGBTQ people.  Let me give you a brief synopsis of the results of our deliberations and actions.



  • Delegates approved legislation that would restructure the denomination to be more contextual in different regions served by the church. Bishop Tracy Smith Malone, new president of the Council of Bishops, said that “Regionalization would enable the church to be contextual in ministry while remaining connected around the mission of the church and the essentials of the faith.” It would enable the church to “honor who we are as a worldwide denomination.”
  • Regionalization represents an effort to put the church’s different geographical regions on equal footing and to make the General Conference less U.S.-centric. The current central conferences and the U.S. would become regional conferences, with the same authority to pass legislation for greater missional impact.
  • Delegates also approved the continuation of work on a General Book of Discipline that would be brought to the next regular session of General Conference.
  • The regionalization legislation involves an amendment to the church’s constitution. This would have to be approved by at least two-thirds of the total votes cast across all annual conferences worldwide in order for much of the regionalization legislation to take effect. If they receive the necessary number of votes, the results would be announced by the United Methodist Council of Bishops.



In 2012 the General Board of Church and Society was charged with the task of rewriting our Social Principles for the first time in 50 year, with the goal of making them applicable for spiritual guidance all around the globe.  After initial drafts were created, feedback was solicited globally.  The end result, which was adopted with only one wording change, is what has been called a “love letter to the church.”  These statements address the importance of advocating for human dignity and combating racism and other threats, caring for creation and the environment, standing against social ills, and supporting healthy community in all its forms, including economic, social and political.  I hope we will have the opportunity to study this document together this coming Fall.



The General Conference voted by overwhelming majorities to remove from the United Methodist Book of Discipline discriminatory language and bans related to ministry by, with and for “self-avowed practicing” gay and lesbian people. Actions included:

  • • Removal of the language that the “practice of homosexuality … is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
  • • Removal of the ban on the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy.
  • • Removal of language that made the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexual” clergy and the performance of same-sex weddings chargeable offenses.
  • • Removal of mandatory minimum penalties for clergy holding same-sex weddings.
  • • Removal of a prohibition against using United Methodist funds to support groups, activities and causes that promote the acceptance of homosexuality.
  • • Removal of the requirement that the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination’s finance agency, enforce the funding ban. Instead, the provision says the agency should ensure that church funds do not go to anything that rejects LGBTQ persons or limits the response to the HIV epidemic.
  • • Allowance for all clergy in good standing to be appointed across annual conference lines when their bishop can’t locate an appointment in their conference.


These changes bring the Book of Discipline back to a neutral place where one group is not singled out for discrimination. It holds space for differing opinions within The United Methodist Church by avoiding broad mandates.


Two more items of note:  We experienced two historic firsts:

**Bishop Tracy S. Malone, resident bishop of the East Ohio Conference, became the first Black female president of the Council of Bishops on April 30, 2024.

  • Bishop David Wilson, resident bishop of the Great Plains Conference, became the first Native American bishop to preside over the General Conference on April 25, 2024.


AND, we voted to decrease General Church Apportionments.

In an effort to balance funding important connectional ministries through the general church budget and supporting the local church during financial challenges due to the pandemic and disaffiliation, delegates approved a compromise regarding apportionments. Conferences will shift from their current base rate of 3.29% to a base rate of 2.6% for 2025 and 2026. Then, if the apportionment collection rate is 90% or higher in those years, the base rate will increase to 2.9% for 2027 and 2028.  This will provide a much needed financial break for local churches starting next year.

There is much more ~ too much to cover this morning, as nearly 1000 pieces of legislation were considered.


Above and beyond the facts and figures, the spirit and attitude of the General Conference was more UNITED than I believe we have ever been, since the inception of the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH.  Our ancestors are rejoicing, for those to whom they had given encouragement in the faith have finally brought a little more of heaven to earth.  AHHH.  The words of old Simeon after he spotted baby Jesus being brought to the Temple kept swirling through my mind.  “Let now your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen they salvation!”


It was Mother’s Day in 2005.  A four-year-old and a six-year-old presented their Mom with a houseplant. They had used their own money and she was thrilled. The older of them said with a sad face,” There was a bouquet that we wanted to give you at the flower shop. It was real pretty, but it was too expensive. It had a ribbon on it that said, ‘Rest in Peace,’ and we thought it would be just perfect since you are always asking for a little peace so that you can rest.”

Today, we can each, and all, rest with a little more peace in our souls.  Thanks be to God!

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