The 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church is winding down. Delegates, lay and clergy alike, from all over the globe, have gathered for two weeks to review and act upon submitted legislation which will guide how United Methodist congregations all around the world live out their mission. Just a reminder, we are part of the Indiana Conference and the NORTH Central Jurisdiction. (http://www.ncjumc.org/north-central-jurisdiction-conferences/) General Conference has been full of high and low points, tensions and breakthroughs. Devoted worship and prayer has been at the center.
A variety of people were honored.
This included Native Americans, in memory of a late 19th century massacre which happened with the leadership of a Methodist minister. The 60th anniversary of ordaining women was honored. The Methodist ministry of eradicating malaria in Africa was celebrated and the needs outlined again.
This list is extensive and could go on for days.
A variety of issues were dicussed, including:
Methodist’s response to continuing needs with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. (As of this writing, action has not been finalized.)
Whether guaranteed appointments would remain for clergy Elders (voted yes) and if there would be term limits for Bishops (voted no).
A proposal to use $20 million from the World Service Fund (received through church tithes like ours and supporting the budgets of the global program boards and agencies whose mandates carry out the priorities and mandates of the church) for a strategy to revitalize 1000 churches. (Voted down, but an adjusted proposal coming to the floor.)
This list too could go on and on and on. If you would like look at the final results, please go here and click final results: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/legislation-tracking
As expected, the focus of much of the conference has been around human sexuality. This one topic has become, as for many denominations, the anvil upon which our Church hammers out its convictions. Those on every side of this discussion are striving for what they believe the Bible states; for what is righteous, moral and faithful. Tears, anger, hope, and prayers were in the hearts of many United Methodists throughout the discussions. From what I read in Twitter streams and blog posts, those on every side unequivocally hold they have it right when it comes to God’s will. Subsequently, the divisiveness became evident and produced a couple of very heart breaking days. A schism in the church was a major focus of discussion and still is. Eventually, The Council of Bishops was asked, pleaded with, to lead. This was quite a move, given that the role of Bishops at General Conference is to facilitate; they do not have a vote.
The Bishops made a proposal which eventually was passed by 23 votes. In short, a commissioned study group, who are global and balanced in terms of stance, will work together to create a proposed pathway forward to be presented at a called General Conference prior to the next Quadrennial General Conference. As you might imagine, some find this a tragic move and some find it incredibly hopeful. The full proposal can be found here: http://www.inumc.org/newsdetail/an-offering-for-a-way-forward-bruce-ough-president-of-the-council-of-bishops-4801701?utm_content=buffer7aca2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Now that this proposal has been accepted, we do hope in this commissioned group of leaders we might find the renewal that comes from a diversity of people gathering around a table seeking the Spirit’s leading in unity.
1. Conference gatherings for Methodists began in 1744. The goal was to reason together in the Bible, tradition and experience. May that be renewed through face-to-face conversations among those who disagree.
2. Unity is not without disagreement. Unity is not about orchestrating a “win.” Unity doesn’t mean that all people care with the same passion about each aspect of the discussion. Unity is reached in seeking to be of one heart for the mission of God. We hope unity will be evident by the way this group humbly listens, with open hearts, to each other and the Spirit, as they seek to offer a proposal which will guide the Church.
3. May this group keep ever-before them that all discussions, when it comes to the work of the church, are really about God and people; a very real God and very real people.
4. Best I can tell, this will be our 5th commission/study on human sexuality out of twelve Quadrenniums. May we find a way forward in unity, love and purpose.
On that note, please listen to the Statement of Unity by the Young People of the United Methodist Church. As Jesus often asks, may we have the heart of “children”…, these young ones in particular. https://youtu.be/HmjYDDoE_Tg
If you have questions or seek discussion about General Conference and where we are as a church, please email me (email@example.com) so we can set up a time to talk!
Throughout our Fresh Air sermon series, you are invited to take time each day to further cultivate a life in God’s Spirit. Daily devotions are emailed Monday-Friday and are also available on the church website. For those who do not have access to a computer, printed devotions are available in the narthex on Sundays and at the Welcome Center during the week. Each devotion offers insights from the scriptures about the Spirit and invites you to be in the Spirit through prayer. We will culminate this series on June 11, in an all-church prayer walk through our mission field, gathering in Fellowship Hall for coffee and doughnuts and route information at 9:30. From 10:30-11:30 we will walk in prayer together through our community.
Graduates of our Getting Ahead class will receive their program graduation certificates in front of family and friends at a celebratory dinner this Wednesday evening, May 25. Selected members of the church will to be available to support the graduates as they continue on their journey.
Youth Mission Trip: June 19-25, our youth and a team of adults are heading back to White Oak, Tennessee. We will have a prayerful send off for the team Sunday, June 19. This is the team’s fourth year participating in projects at the Henderson Settlement work camp of White Oak (Appalachia). The team will be installing a trailer roof, painting, plumbing, and more as they come alongside friends both new and known. This is a wonderful experience for all involved. The team covets your prayers as they travel, work, witness and love. This will also be Pastor Matthew’s last trip with the youth, so he covets your prayers too. The theme for this year’s trip is Humility. The theme scripture is Philippians 2:5-11.
Vacation Bible School is July 11-15 with dinner served 5:15-5:45pm and VBS programs from 6-8:00pm. This summer’s theme is “Cave Quest: Following Jesus the Light of the World.” Many servant volunteers are needed for a variety of tasks as we prepare to welcome 100+ children and their families. To sign up to serve or to ask questions, contact Nancy Bellinger (firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-375-0711).
Serving Christ Together,