The General Conference of 2019 is completed. The Conference met to try to change the deadlock we seem to be in around the topic of human sexuality. For decades we have had heated debates at General Conferences on this issue. I attended the 1984 Bicentennial General Conference in Baltimore where there were protests, many petitions, and ultimately, little change in policy about the participation of homosexual persons in the life of The United Methodist Church.
35 years later, we have much the same story. The Conference voted to approve what is called the “Traditional” plan. In this plan there are no changes in what the Book of Discipline says about people who participate in same-gender relationships. The plan does, however, attempt to change the process by which United Methodists hold each other responsible for “breaking the rules.”
I use the word “attempt” because many parts of the changes proposed were deemed unconstitutional by the United Methodist Judicial Council, both prior to, and at, the General Conference. Some fixes were voted on at the Conference, but we won’t know if they are constitutional until the
Judicial Council meets again in April. So it appears, after all that, we could be right where we were 3 years ago. In our relationships with other people, when we keep having the same argument with them over and over, it’s a sign that we are not truly listening to each other. Unless we learn to stop, take a breath, let go of whatever we’re holding onto so tightly, and really listen to the other person, so that we understand them, we will never be able to respond in a way that provides the other with the opportunity to stop, take a breath, let go of whatever they’re holding onto so tightly, and really listen to us.
I wonder if General Conference is structured to do this kind of relationship work. Perhaps that’s why they haven’t been able to resolve this issue, even after more than 35 years.
It will take each of us having conversations with other United Methodists, building relationships within churches, districts, conferences, and jurisdictions, and across churches, districts, conferences, and jurisdictions, before we can come to agreement on a solution. The answer will not come from legislation, but from conversation. Holy conversation. Conversation in which we speak from our heart and listen with our heart. Conversation in which we can hear God in the other, and they can hear God in us.
Western Jurisdiction UMC Bishops video statement script (Feb 28, 2019)
From our District Superintendent
From our District Superintendent
I keep hearing people talk about the big decisions to be made next month at General Conference. Well, I want to invite you to join with me in praying that what we do there is not decision-making but is instead discernment, real discernment, because those are different things.
To come together in an attitude of decision-making, we would surface and share information, we would apply our best thinking and we would wrangle with one another until together we figured out for ourselves the best way to move ahead. A very human approach, when it could be, and should be, and can be so much more for people of faith.
See, anytime the question on the table is: “Is God trying to bring something new into the world? Is God trying to lead us into new understandings of ourselves and one another and what it means to be a faithful follower of
Jesus Christ?” Well, then that’s a moment for discernment and of listening to God as well as to ourselves and one another. It’s a time to surface and share information, to bring our best thinking and then for all of us to set our egos aside with everything else on the table and say, “God what could you create in the midst of this?” And then listen.
My prayer for General Conference is that the Holy Spirit breaks in and that those of us present are open and present enough that we notice—and that we collaborate with it for what God could do in our midst.
My hoped-for outcome of General Conference is that we could increase the United Methodist way of bringing lifegiving, life-saving, life-transforming love into this world; that love that we know through Jesus Christ.
I invite you to be with me as I and the rest of the delegation prepare ourselves for work in St. Louis. And please be in prayer for us, and with us, in St. Louis that we might not just be doing the work of Church but that we might be Church and bring and embody the best of what it means to be the body of Christ.
Rev. Mary K. Huycke is the first-elected clergy delegate from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference to the 2019 General Conference, meeting in St. Louis in February. She also serves as district superintendent for the
Seven Rivers Missional District.
By Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
A Bright Star in the Night Sky
By Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
A baby was born who turned the world on its head. Lives are changed by Jesus, who opens our eyes to God’s transforming love and justice. We celebrate his birth extravagantly, because we understand that his life, death and resurrection are awesome in their creative power—maybe even awe-ful in their disruptive power. They show us that life is not in vain, that the most violent powers of sin and death cannot snuff out the hope that burns in our hearts, even at times like a small, flickering flame.
The story of Jesus turns us inside out as we sing, “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I pray that your very personal hopes and fears are met by Jesus in the New Year.
United Methodists will carry our very public hopes and fears from 2018 into 2019. A special session of General Conference in February will seek a way forward out of decades of strife over whether and how the Church will welcome and include, or reject and exclude, people based upon their sexual identities and orientations.
What are the hopes that delegates will bring to the Conference?
•Full Inclusion. The Simple Plan would remove of restrictive language in the Book of Discipline to enact full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Church. Sexual identity and orientation would not be a standard for ordination. Same sex weddings would be allowed.
•Obedience to scripture and discipline. The Traditional Plan reaffirms the traditional teaching that marriage between one man and one woman is the norm. “Self-avowed practicing homosexuals” would be prohibited from ordination and samesex weddings would be prohibited, with stricter enforcement of each. [Learn More | Proposed Legislation]
•Redefining the Connection. The Connectional Conference Plan is the most complicated of the three proposed by the Commission on a Way Forward providing for three overlapping conferences which share some services but have more theological autonomy. Of the major plans, if provides the most space for theological differences but probably has the least support due to the number, and difficulty, of the changes proposed. [Learn More | Proposed Legislation]
•Room for contextual adaptation. The One Church Plan offers less legislated uniformity and allows clergy, local churches and annual conferences to set standards and practices appropriate to their ministry context and exercise of conscience.
I have publicly joined other bishops and leaders of the Western Jurisdiction in
support of the One Church Plan.
Bo’s Blog, “Wait. . . . . . .Wait. . . . . .”
“Wait. . . . . . .Wait. . . . . .”
I remember being startled the first time a crosswalk button talked to me. Well, yeah, I thought, I am going to wait until the crosswalk signal changes. But I sure wish it would change soon.
Waiting is a part of life. We have to wait for the results of the test we took at school. We have to wait to find out if we got the job for which we interviewed. We wait for food to cook. We wait until we’ve saved enough to buy the car, or boat, or house, we want. We wait for the “right person” to come into our lives. We wait for months for a child to be born. We wait for that raise or promotion.
We wait for our kids to come home after school, or our spouse to come home after work. We wait for the kids to move out, get jobs, begin families of their own. We wait to go on vacations, for retirement to arrive. We wait for many things to happen in our lives. But many of us are not good waiters. Our culture, for
decades, has been one of instant gratification, about making the waiting less, and the goal sooner. We can see our test result as soon as the grading is done by checking our student account on-line. No need to “Wait. . . .Wait. . . .” until the next class to get your score. We have more credit cards now, so we don’t have to save up (“Wait. . . .Wait. . . .”) to buy what we want. We can call long distance at no extra cost, get up-to-the-minute news, and “chat” with a group of friends, all through our phones, without having to “Wait. . . .Wait. . . .”. In many ways waiting is a thing of the past.
We lose much, though, when we don’t have to “Wait. .. .Wait. . . .”. When we’re busy rushing from one thing to the next, we don’t have time to relax in between, to notice life going on around us, to have a sense of anticipation for what’s coming next. We don’t have time to think, to process, to imagine, to feel our emotions.
As human beings, we need time and space to wait. Advent is such a place. It is God’s season of “Wait. . .
.Wait. . . .”. I invite you to join me at the crosswalk. Intentionally lengthen the space between your pro-
jects, your shopping, and your other lists. Take time to reflect, to remember, to look around and enjoy the sights and sounds of waiting. Resist the urge to rush towards Christmas until it actually is Christmas. Take the time to feel your true self in this season, as we await the celebration of the birth of the One who calls us to be those true selves.
At a gathering of the pastors of our conference at Wenatchee First UMC last month, the Rev. Larry Peacock, a retired UM pastor from the Cal-Pacific Annual Conference, who is now the Executive Director of the Franciscan Spiritual Center in Portland, led a workshop on spiritual disciplines. Of the three disciplines he highlighted, one was gratitude. “Practicing gratitude,” he said, “turns scarcity and fear into abundance and hope. ”I always give thanks as part of the prayers I say, but I hadn’t really thought much about gratitude as a life practice, as an attitude toward life. But the practices
Larry lifted up in that workshop were about doing things in everyday life to reinforce a feeling of gratitude within. One was saying grace. Very simple, very basic, but what saying grace does is remind us
of the good gifts we have in life, beginning with food to eat. Having food is not a given in many parts of the world, nor even in our country, and community. It is a blessing to have food, and to share food with others around a table. Saying grace reminds us of this simple, basic truth.
Another practice of gratitude he shared (my mom’s going to love this) is writing thank you notes. In writing these notes, we acknowledge that we are not Lone Rangers, that we are not “all alone,” as King
Aurthur sings in “Spamalot.” Instead, we receive gifts from God and others, and the gift-giving, and the acknowledgement of gift-receiving enriches and deepens the relationships we have in life. I had no idea that my thank you notes were anything more than a chore I had to do as a kid until last year, when my brother sent me those very notes I had written to my grandfather. My grandfather had kept them in a drawer beside his bed. When he passed away, my father found them, and kept them. Those small notes held more meaning for those two men than my very basic “thank you,” and the notes about the weather I included. In saying “thank you,” we bind ourselves to others in relationships of goodwill.
Another practice is to simply review our day, as it closes, and remind ourselves of the good things that happened for which we are grateful. This helps build a habit within us of expecting good to be there, even if it seems to be carefully hidden.
Through these practices our perception of life can move from negative to positive, from isolation to belonging, from “scarcity and fear” to “abundance and hope.” Happy Thanks-giving!