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.

Age Statistics Comparison of #gc2012 Delegates

I checked with infoserv to dig up some information on the ages of delegates to General Conference 2012 as compared to the entire denomination. Thank you to the wonderful team at Ask InfoServ for their data gathering!

There is no official United Methodist source for age statistics for the denomination.  GCFA has not collected age statistics since General Council on Ministries. However, there is the 2010 State of the Church: Congregational Life Survey which breaks down ages by percentage. Here is the comparison between the Congregational Life Survey and the ages of 790 of the 988 total delegates to General Conference 2012.

  • Age 18 to 24
    • 2.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 25 to 44
    • 14.9% – General Conference Delegates
    • 19% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 45 to 64
    • 64.4% – General Conference Delegates
    • 37% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 65 to 84
    • 17.8% – General Conference Delegates
    • 34% – United Methodist attendees in 2010
  • Age 85+
    • 0.0% – General Conference Delegates
    • 5% – United Methodist attendees in 2010

Why I Support #PlanUMC at #gc2012

There has been much discussion about the reorganization of The United Methodist Church at General Conference 2012 with plans from various constituencies.

I believe that Plan UMC is the best starting point for a way forward for the denomination. You can find out more about this restructuring plan at http://www.planumc.org

Plan UMC:

  • is the only restructure plan that emerged at General Conference after the response of delegates in #Gen Admin Committee
  • preserves and strengthens the role of #gcorr and #cosrow in the Committee on Inclusivity #gc2012
  • is a way forward that will provide greater clarity, organization and direction for our boards and agencies #gc2012
  • will focus on creating vital congregations which incarnate the work of all the boards and agencies in a local context.
  • puts the denomination at the edge of its comfort zone – a place where progress is most likely to occur.

Regardless of what restructuring plan does or does not pass at General Conference, I am hopeful for the future of The United Methodist Church. I am looking forward to continuing our mission together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Energizing Others at #gc2012 (@TheKLC: 6 of 10)

This past fall and winter, I had the opportunity to take part in the Leadership and Faith: Transforming Communities program through the Kansas Leadership Center with the Missions team at Resurrection West. I want to share my reflections and learnings from that time in light of the General Conference 2012 of The United Methodist Church.

When you are seeking to make progress that you care about one of the most important things that you can do is energize others. Sharing a vision with others helps move the issue beyond yourself and momentum begins to take hold. One of the members of my team suggested that at times, one of the unexpected outcomes of this is that by energizing others you realize that you are not as indispensable as you think you are. There is loss in this realization.

Don’t let the possibility of loss keep you from sharing your vision with others.

If You Think Things are Crummy at #gc2012… (@TheKLC: 6 of 10)

This past fall and winter, I had the opportunity to take part in the Leadership and Faith: Transforming Communities program through the Kansas Leadership Center with the Missions team at Resurrection West. I want to share my reflections and learnings from that time in light of the General Conference 2012 of The United Methodist Church.

There are innumerable issues that delegates are trying to make progress on to help the United Methodist Church live into God’s dream for the denomination. It is a shared challenge on all of these issues that there are other delegates who think the way things are is just fine.

If you think things are crummy, remember that it is working for someone.

Has #GC2012 Taken You to the Edge of Your Comfort Zone? (@TheKLC: 5 of 10)

This past fall and winter, I had the opportunity to take part in the Leadership and Faith: Transforming Communities program through the Kansas Leadership Center with the Missions team at Resurrection West. I want to share my reflections and learnings from that time in light of the General Conference 2012 of The United Methodist Church.

If General Conference 2012 has taken you to the edge of your comfort zone, you are in the right place to make progress on the issues about which you care deeply. Too far inside your comfort zone and it may be difficult to make more progress than has already been accomplished. Too far outside your comfort zone and you may be unable to effectively take action.

The edge of your comfort zone is the place where you start to feel incompetent.

This is the place where progress is most likely to occur.

Leadership at #GC2012 May Not Meet Your Expectations (@TheKLC: 4 of 10)

This past fall and winter, I had the opportunity to take part in the Leadership and Faith: Transforming Communities program through the Kansas Leadership Center with the Missions team at Resurrection West. I want to share my reflections and learnings from that time in light of the General Conference 2012 of The United Methodist Church.

Everyone has expectations of leaders. These expectations come in many different forms, including, but not limited to:

  • Who a leader will be
  • What a leader will say
  • How a leader will act
  • What roles a leader will play
  • When a leader show up

Leadership often comes in unexpected ways from unexpected people. As you think about the goals on which you are trying to make progress, remember that exercising leadership may be distinct from what we expect of people in leadership.