Local Church Conversation about #gc2019

Yesterday afternoon, we had an all-church conversation at Berryton United Methodist Church to process the 2019 special session of the General Conference. I put it on the calendar about a month ago. While it was, of course, impossible to predict how things would go, I did figure that we would need some time and space to process whatever it was that was passed. This was true.

The weather was bitterly cold and it was snowing for the first part of the morning with about 3 inches accumulated before the first worship service ended. It was the second lowest in-person worship attendance in the last two years. In spite of the conditions, we had a great turnout on Sunday afternoon to talk about General Conference.

I shared these documents with those that were gathered:

The first document was a statement that I shared in worship and the second was shared at the meeting in the afternoon. Both were adapted from resources provided by the Great Plains Annual Conference.

I am glad that people gathered and were willing to share their pain, questions, confusion, and hope. It felt inadequate. There needs to be and will continue to be more conversations in local congregations just like ours across the United States and around the world. People are moved to take action.

What am I Driving? Further Reflections on #gc2019

This morning, I met with a group of clergy colleagues in what is a regularly scheduled gathering. Today we shared, reflected, grieved, considered the future and talked about what and how to best share with our local congregations the events of General Conference. I shared an image of the disorientation that I am feeling in response to the passing of the Traditional Plan…

It’s like I am driving our minivan down the highway. I am making progress toward my destination. Everything seems to be running pretty well. We are on the way. I stop to refill the fuel tank and pick up some snacks. As I get out of the vehicle and start to head inside the convenience store, I take a look back and suddenly, it’s not my the minivan. It turns out that it is a truck.

Wait a minute… What?!

I thought I was driving toward a destination and all of a sudden, I realize that I have been driving inside a completely different vehicle. What happened to the familiar surroundings of the vehicle with which I was familiar? What have I been driving all this time?


The re-affirmation of the Traditional Plan three times over – in the prioritization, in legislative committee, and in the plenary session of General Conference 2019 is confusing. I thought that I have been part of a denomination that is moving toward full inclusion throughout the entire life of the church – albeit slowly and hesitatingly. Yet, the evidence of the voting demonstrates that this is not true – at least not on a denominational level. It is frustrating to find that the United Methodist Church turned away from greater inclusion. Yet, it also illuminates the truth: There is a need action in new ways, with creative approaches, and bolder vision. I don’t yet know what this looks like, however I want to help figure out what’s next for a more inclusive church.

Reflections on Day 3 of #gc2019

Well, I was not expecting the day of conferencing to go as it did. It was disheartening to see the Traditional Plan receive enough votes in legislative committee to go on the plenary. The disaffiliation legislation is interesting. If you asked me six months ago about the wisdom of a “graceful exit” for churches and I would have said that it was a bad idea. There is value in staying together. Of course, that was in a world where it seemed that the One Church Plan was likely to be the plan that moved forward. That the One Church Plan would pass is much less likely at the moment – as it did not receive enough votes to make it out of committee. So, that happened…

Legislative Committee as a Whole

It has been interesting to see the work proceed with a legislative committee of the whole. My first take on that was that it would be laborious and unhelpful. I don’t know that it has been any more laborious than usual, and it has turned out to be helpful. This method of addressing the legislation has removed some of the uncertainty of what will happen in the plenary that usually exists in General Conference.

Points of Order / Information

It is fascinating to see people use a point of order or point of information as a way to prioritize their time at the microphone and then turn it into something else entirely.

“Oh, did I press that button? Well, now that I’m at the microphone…”

I want to offer a presumption of grace and at the same time know that parliamentary maneuvering is part of the fabric of legislative gatherings of this size.

Greater Clarity

I am trying not to get overwrought about things at the moment, as the actual work will take place tomorrow. Though, with the legislative body and the plenary body being the same group of people it seems clear the direction things will move. 24 hours from now and much more will be clearer. Well, probably clearer, though not necessarily.

My continued gratitude to delegates for their offerings of strength, emotion, speaking, and listening.

Reflections on Day 2 of #gc2019

This morning I led worship at Berryton United Methodist Church and preached a sermon about being in connection with one another – Moved to Connect. It is the second in a three part series, The Movement Continues. It is focused on who we are as United Methodist Christians. During our worship service, we lifted up the delegates and work of the General Conference in prayer at both of our worship services. After leaving the church building, I visited one of our congregants who just entered hospice care and then it was time to head home. In between all of these, I was listening and watching the live video stream of General Conference.

Church and Technology

Each time the church gathers with voting devices of any sort, there is some time that is taken making sure that everyone knows how and is able to vote correctly. My first response was, “Why can’t we move through this any faster?” However, I quickly caught myself with the reminder of how important it is that each person is able to understand the tools that are available to them before they are able to use them effectively. Training and practice to prepare will always be helpful in making progress later.

One Legislative Committee

One of the interesting aspects of this General Conference is that there is a legislative body of the entire body. Most often, delegates are divided among a variety of legislative committees which address legislation to be brought back to the entire General Conference. It was surprising to see a non-bishop leading on the livestream, though it seems likely that the Rev. Joe Harris could become a candidate for bishop.

Prioritizing Legislation

I found the voting method to prioritize legislation to be genius. A vote for high or low priority for each piece of legislation with the results being held until the end was a bit mind-numbing on the live video stream, however it was an efficient way of getting of sense of a sense of the body of delegates regarding the entire set of legislation. As a supporter of full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of the church, it was disheartening to see the One Church Plan ranked as a lower priority than the Traditional Plan.

Early Adjournment

I was puzzled by the vote to adjourn with nearly 45 minutes remaining until the scheduled adjournment for the day. After dealing with the legislation from Wespath, it was suggested that it would be best to wait until the morning to take up the Traditional Plan. On the one hand, probably so. It was nearing the end of the day and there will be a great deal of speaking against and for, amending, substituting, and other legislative maneuvering. On the other hand, probably not. There is less than 18 hours remaining on the schedule for the work to be completed.

In either case, it seemed that it was time for supporters of both the One Church Plan and Traditional Plan to take in the votes of the day and make plans for the best approach to move ahead tomorrow.

Thank You

I am grateful for the time, effort, and dedication of all the delegates.

I continue to pray for wisdom, clarity, peace, and endurance.

Thank you for your service during these days.

Your work makes a difference.

Rest well tonight.

Preacher FAQ: Why do you park so far away?

Last Sunday, a member of the congregation asked me why I park so far away from the church building. So, in this edition of frequently asked questions for the preacher, here goes: I park far away from the entrance for two reasons – the mission field and my health.

The mission field is the community to which I have been appointed. There are just over 18,000 people that live within five miles of Berryton United Methodist Church. Over 10,000 of these people are not involved in a religious congregation or community. This is the mission field.

Parking away from the entrance to the building makes sure that there are spaces that are closer for people who may show up for the first time that day. I want to do everything that I can to help welcome people who come to the congregation and a little closer parking spot may help. Also, as I am walking toward the building I am mindful of the cars that will fill the lot and pray for all those that will gather for worship. The walk also offers time to consider those in our community who are not yet connected with a congregation. I am able to reflect on these persons and consider how the choices that I make as a leader in this congregation is helping share God’s love with those who have not yet heard.

Also, I want to stay as healthy as I am able. One healthy habit that I track is parking at the far end of the parking lot each day. This small step adds activity to my day and health to my life.

So, why do I park far away? For a healthy congregation and body.

Pilgrimage to Resurrection

I have attended Leadership Institute at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection every year that I have served under appointment as a United Methodist preacher. I was only able to be present for one day this year, but it was still worth it. Here is what made it good:

  • Connection – It is great to reconnect with both congregants and staff at the church, as well as colleagues from across the conference and around the connection.
  • Remembering – Nicole and I began our life as a married couple serving as associate pastors. They were formative years in discovering how to be a couple and how to be a pastor.
  • Time Away – I am able to rest in the reality that, even for just a few moments, someone else is tending to all the details at church.
  • Inspiration – The speakers and workshops are excellent. They help stretch my mind beyond what is to what might be.
  • Being Present – It is good to be around a big group of people that are committed to making progress in their local church – wherever that may be. There is a tangible sense that we are all about God’s work in the mission field.

I realized this year that it has become a bit of a pilgrimage for me and I am glad for the opportunity to return.

Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement

I am spending my day in Wichita at a professional development experience – Disney’s Approach to Employee Engagement. It provided by the Disney Institute and hosted by the Wichita Independent Business Association.

The concepts planned for the day, include:

  • Fostering a Workplace Culture
  • Selecting the Right-Fit Talent
  • Training the Culture
  • Communicating to Inform & Inspire
  • Creating a Caring Environment

I am interested to see how these concepts apply to Berryton United Methodist Church and the Great Plains Annual Conference. The engagement level of the current congregation today is evident to people who may visit the congregation for the first time. Engagement also makes a difference in how readily someone is to share with others about their experience with God and the local church. I am looking forward to more today and will be paying attention to how we can make progress in congregational engagement.