100 Conversations in 100 Days

Today is my 32nd day as the preacher assigned to Berryton United Methodist Church. It has been a wonderful journey of learning, sharing, and welcome. I am so grateful for the warm welcome that we have received from the congregation and community. One of the ways that I have been learning about the congregation is something that I am calling 100 Conversations in 100 Days.

I hope to share a one-on-one conversation with 100 people so that I can hear their thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the church and community. My hope is to get this accomplished in my first 100 days, which gives me until October 8. As of today, I have four down and ninety-six to go. If you live in the Berryton area, would you be willing to share a conversation with me about the church? Visit www.calendly.com/AndrewConard and click on “100 Conversations” to set up a time to meet.

I have been updating and adapting questions from Eleven Questions for Getting to Know a New Congregation. Here is the original list:

  • Tell me about a time when you felt especially proud of some members or leaders of your congregation, when you felt they were really following Christ. What makes this incident stand out in your mind?
  • Whom do you especially respect as leaders? Why do you hold them in high regard?
  • Tell me why you’re glad you are a member of this congregation. Why did you join this congregation instead of another one?
  • How has being part of this congregation helped you and members of your family grow in faith? Please give me some examples of experiences or classes that made a difference. How did you change?
  • Tell me a story about when congregation members resolved a conflict or difference effectively. What do you think the congregation learned from this experience? How effectively do leaders and members handle differences now?
  • What have you especially valued about your pastors and other congregational staff? (Be specific.) Do any sermons, initiatives, or attributes of your previous pastors come to mind?
  • Tell me about a time when you were disappointed with members or leaders. What happened?
  • Complete this sentence: “God is calling this congregation to be …”
  • What do you think God wants your congregation to emphasize in the next three to five years?
  • What else do I need to know in order to thrive in this congregation and community?
  • Do you have any other concerns or suggestions?

What strategies or techniques have you used to learn about the congregation and community in a new appointment?

18 for 20 for the Great Plains Annual Conference

There will be less than 16 months between the special session of General Conference in 2019 and the regular session of General Conference in 2020. I believe that continuity between the two General Conferences will be essential, given that any action taken in 2019 will directly influence legislation proposed in 2020, and delegates in 2020 will need to be as informed and well-versed as possible about the decisions made in 2019. There will be need for a consistent base of knowledge, confidence, and trust within the crucial one-year time between General Conferences. Any number of observers may attend General Conference without voice or vote, yet may fellowship and consult with the delegates from their Annual Conference outside business sessions.

After considering the Connecting Council recommendation to affirm the 2016 delegation a the delegation for 2019, I plan to make this motion from the floor:

I move that the election of the Great Plains Annual Conference delegation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences of 2020 be held during the Great Plains Conference session of 2018 and that the 2020 delegation attend the special session of General Conference in 2019 as observers in fellowship with the Great Plains Annual Conference delegation for mutual advising and sharing crucial knowledge with the cost to be covered by the General Conference expense reserve fund.

I believe the Great Plains Annual Conference is in a position to help lead the decision-making at General Conference. I hope that this motion will empower both the 2019 and 2020 delegations to take on a greater leadership role at General Conference to help influence the future of our denomination.

Will you please share your thoughts, feelings, responses, and opinions?You can email me at aconard@greatplainsumc.org and I will update this story as needed.


Questions and Responses

Does this mean we should consider electing a new delegation for 2019?

No. The Connecting Council is recommending that we affirm 2016 delegation as the delegation for 2019. I support this recommendation.

How will we cover the cost for the 2020 delegation to attend?

In conversation with our conference staff and CFA, there are sufficient funds remaining from the 2016 delegation expense to cover the expenses for both the 2019 delegation and the 2020 delegation to be present at the special session of General Conference in 2019.

With the special session in St. Louis and only lasting three days, it is likely that there will be no flights (mileage instead) and not much in hotel and meal expense due to the short timeframe of the special session. The actual General Conference delegates are paid by the General Church and the annual conference only pays for Jurisdictional and reserves (and if this petition passes some additional persons not on the current delegation but added to the 2020 delegation.

How will we cover the cost for the voting machines in 2018?

The annual conference has budgeted money annually to build up what we need for voting equipment every four years. This motion will simply move that expense from 2019 to 2018.

Will the voting machines be available in 2018?

The annual conference will work with a vendor to ensure that voting machines will be available for the annual conference session of 2018.

Last time we used the voting machines in Wichita, we had trouble getting them to work. Won’t we have the same problem again?

The wireless environment in cities and convention centers changes regularly and it is very difficult to forecast the exact technical environment in which we will use the wireless voting devices. While there are both user-generated and technical issues with using electronic voting devices, I am confident that they will be able to be adequately addressed and will work with a vendor to ensure the best possible experience. Electronic voting devices are much preferable to a manual voting process.

The United Methodist Church in April 2017

One Preacher’s Congregational Guide

Several of you have mentioned the recent articles (hereand here) in The Wichita Eagle about the United Methodist Church. You can find the most up to date denominational news here. In this article, I hope to share some background information, explanation of current events, and what might be next for our denomination and congregation.

Division in The United Methodist Church

For decades, there has been division in our denomination about how to interpret the passages in the Bible related to same-gender relationships. Our official position both recognizes God’s grace and the sacred worth of all people, and also considers the practice of homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching. The denomination does not currently allow for the ordination of lesbian and gay persons or for United Methodist clergy to officiate at same-gender marriages. However, there are a number of clergy, annual conferences, and jurisdictions which in practice, statement, or resolution have deteremined to ignore the portions of the Discipline which cause harm to LGBTQ persons.

As a global denomination, there are faithful United Methodists around the world that find themselves with different understandings of what it means to be faithful in these matters. Within the United States, there are congregations which find themselves in different places, as well as individuals within particular congregations who would find themselves to disagree.

An Episcopal Election and the Judicial Council

The current news is connected the election of a bishop last year. In June, Karen Oliveto, who was the pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church at the time, was elected bishop by the Western Jurisdiction. She became the first married lesbian bishop in our denomination and assigned as Bishop of the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Conferences.

In the closing moments of the South Central Jurisdiction, there was a petition to the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church which made their April 2017 docket:

IN RE: Petition for Declaratory Decision from the South Central Jurisdictional Conference concerning the application, meaning, and effect of ¶¶ 304.3, 310.2d, 341.6, 2702.1a), b), and d) of The Book of Discipline 2012 in regard to the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union.

You can find the official document here (PDF) or their entire April 2017 docket here.

A Ruling and Next Steps

The Judicial Council is expected to issue a ruling on this question on Friday, April 28. My understanding is that after the ruling Karen Oliveto will either beBishop or not be Bishop. No matter what ruling the Judicial Council issues, there will continue to be pain, division and disagreement in our denomination.

On April 24, the Council of Bishops called a Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church (UMC) to be held February 23–26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. The purpose of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference will be “limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward — a 32 member team appointed to lead the church forward amid the impasse related to homosexuality and examine paragraphs in The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options to strengthen the unity of the church. You can find the full press release here.

In 2019, the official position of the denomination will stay the same, become more accepting or something else entirely. There may continue to be a United Methodist Church, the denomination may dissolve or two or more denominations will form consisting of congregations of the current United Methodist Church. There are likely even more options.

Next Steps for First UMC El Dorado

There are faithful people within our congregation who disagree about these matters. This is similar, perhaps, to many United Methodist congregations across Kansas and Nebraska. So, what does this all mean for our life together as First United Methodist Church in El Dorado?

What it means is that we will continue to welcome all people to live as disciples of Jesus Christ as we worship grow, give, serve, and share.

We will continue to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We will not create barriers for those who seek to live a faithful life as children of God and followers of Jesus Christ.

It is an interesting time to be a United Methodist.

A Response to the Charleston Church Shootings

Over the past few days, I have continued in prayer for Charleston. I want to share a portion of my response to the Charleston Church Shootings which I preached this morning at First United Methodist Church. I believe it is important and inadequate. You can find the entire sermon and manuscript online here.


Let me be clear:
God never intends us to choose evil.
The Charleston Church Shootings were not part of God’s plan.
Racism, murder and tragedy will never be God’s will.
Evil is never, ever God’s plan.

Each one of us has choices to make every day.
We choose between good and evil.
We choose between forgiveness and resentment.
We choose between light and darkness.
The choices that we make – both big and small lead us closer to God or further away from God.

Choose good.
Choose forgiveness.
Choose light and life.
Choose to follow Jesus Christ, Emmanuel – God is with us.

Excellence in Ministry #umbom14 – Reflections from Day 1

This week I am Denver for the BOM Mid Quad Training Event. The event is designed around the theme of Excellence in Ministry and is designed to help annual conferences make progress on the systems contribute to recruiting, supporting, nurturing, and holding clergy accountable. I am here in my role as Treasurer and member of the Call team of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry.

I had to put my seminary brain back on to catch up with Randy Maddox as he began his talk yesterday. I appreciated the depth of his presentation about the historical and theological underpinning for excellence in ministry in the United Methodist Church. It is pretty incredible to be in the same room with Bishops, cabinets and BOM teams from across the nation.  I am looking forward to the rest of the event and bringing back new possibilities for sustaining and expanding excellence in ministry in the Great Plains.

The #kwc12 Twitter Word Cloud Project

2012 Kansas West Annual Conference Twitter Word Cloud

As a follow up to the The #gc2012 Twitter Word Cloud Project, I completed a similar project for the Kansas West Annual Conference. I collected Twitter updates from May 22 to 27 that were tagged with #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc. Then I used Wordle to create a word cloud with the text of all the updates for the conference. I edited out Twitter usernames, #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc to get a better view of the conversation. I hope that you enjoy the results!

  • You can find the raw data of Twitter updates tagged with #kwc12, #ksw12 and #kswumc at http://j.mp/LlgkSN. Feel free to use these updates and World to create your own word clouds.
  • You can download a full size image of the word cloud at http://j.mp/L2ZwlA

Enjoy!

I Speak in Favor of One Conference in Nebraska and Kansas #kwc12 #gpgp

English: , located on west side of just north ...
English: , located on west side of just north of the Nebraska-Kansas border in southern . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today was my first time to speak on the floor of annual conference. While it was not exactly what came out, this is what I prepared:

My name is Andrew Conard. I am a clergy member of the annual conference.

I am currently serving at Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City area and will begin serving at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado beginning July 1.

I speak in favor of forming the Great Plains Annual Conference.

Since its statehood more than 150 years ago, Kansas has been a place of action, a place where people could rally around a cause. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, settling the untamed prairie or recovering from disaster, Kansans mobilized around the cause and demonstrated great leadership abilities.

This is the time to demonstrate leadership in the United Methodist Church on the Great Plains. The annual conference exists to equip the local church for ministry. Becoming one annual conference in Kansas and Nebraska creates the best opportunity for the conference to fulfill its purpose on the Great Plains so that all of our local churches can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Since I was first appointed to serve in Kansas in 2006, I have prayed every week for three things: the mission and vision of the local church where I serve, renewal within the United Methodist Church and spiritual revival across the state. I believe that forming the Great Plains Annual Conference is the next faithful step in our life together of living God’s dream for us as United Methodists in Nebraska and Kansas.

Members of my family are active in the United Methodist churches in Norwich, Plains, Sterling, Burdett and First-Hutchinson. My father is a United Methodist pastor and his father was a United Methodist pastor. The Kansas West Annual Conference is my home.

The month before we began to serve under appointment in Kansas, my wife and I were driving to Colorado on our honeymoon and we made a point to visit two of the churches where my granddad was appointed – the United Methodist Churches in Tribune and Towner on the Kansas / Colorado border. It was a blessing to step into those sacred spaces. I am proud of the United Methodist lay and clergy people who have come before me and been a part of faithful and fruitful ministry all across this Annual Conference for decades. This annual conference is part of who I am.

The Great Plains Annual Conference will be a change. There is no way around it. I believe that this change is the next faithful step in our life together as United Methodists on the Great Plains. I pray that we will continue together in faithful and fruitful ministry.

One hundred years from now, I want the people of the United Methodist Church in Nebraska and Kansas to look back and remember 2012 as a milestone in our lives together when courageous United Methodist took action that fanned the flames of spiritual revival across the Great Plains.

I urge you to vote in favor of forming the Great Plains Annual Conference.