I won’t be in the office at all today because I’m working from home, attending an all-day (9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) Zoom meeting of the Conference Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry. I’m inclined to complain about this, but as a clergy person, my “church membership” is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. That means my serving on this committee is equivalent to the many meetings that you all attend for College Avenue UMC. So I’m going to suck it up and do my best.
Jenny, Liz, and I are at annual conference. (Liz is a young adult representative for the Salina District.) It’s really good to see so many folks in person for the first time in years.
Bishop Saenz has put out a video about why he will remain United Methodist following the launch of the Global Methodist Church (GMC) on May 1, 2022. He names many of the reasons why I will remain United Methodist as well. The United Methodist Church has long been a big tent denomination and I love the image the Bishop used of the UMC having a hard Jesus center and being soft around the edges to include all kinds of folks.
And because I had a question about this, let me assure you that remaining United Methodist as a member of Abilene First is easy. You just stay right where you are. There’s nothing else you need to do. If you’re conservative, and you choose to stay—fear not—it looks like you’ll have plenty of company. The UMC will remain a big tent denomination.
The Great Plains Annual Conference has shared some guidelines for worship in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. A pdf document of those guidelines is available here. Please note that http://www.covidactnow.org is the recommended place to go to find out our county’s risk level. Please also note the sentence “Continue to follow recommendations from the CDC on wearing masks throughout this process.” That means that we will continue to wear masks for now.
Our current District Superintendent, Rev. Delores “Dee” Williamston will become the new Director of Clergy Excellence and Assistant to the Bishop effective July 1. You can read more here. I’ll miss Dee, but I’m very excited for her to receive this opportunity and bring her gifts to bear for the entire annual conference.
Rev. Williamston will be replaced by Rev. Karen Rice Ratzlaff, who I think will be an excellent DS. (Jenny knows her better than I do and she agrees with this assessment.) You can read more about Rev. Ratzlaff here. Like Dee, she will be serving both the Salina and Hutchinson Districts.
2021 ANNUAL CONFERENCE WILL BE VIRTUAL — This week it was announced that the 2021 Annual Conference (the meeting of United Methodists from all over Kansas and Nebraska) will again be held online. The explanation from the Bishop (and I agree) is as follows:
“As we enjoy warming temperatures, spring moves closer on our horizon, and the COVID-19 pandemic appears finally to be easing across Kansas and Nebraska, vaccinations across our two states lag. Put simply, with us coming so close to overcoming the virus, now is not the time to put down our guard or put people at risk. This is why we will not meet in person on May 26-29 in Grand Island, Nebraska, as previously planned.”
The theme for this annual conference session is: “Love me … and know that I am God” (Psalm 46; John 21:15-19).
Received from the Great Plains Annual Conference:
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. invites clergy and laity of the Great Plains Conference to a special online communion worship service as an act of pastoral care and encouragement after a contentious election season.
Please prepare to virtually join together in worship by securing bread and grape juice for when the bishop consecrates and distributes the elements that night. Substitutes include crackers and water.
The worship service will be livestreamed from the conference website and from the conference Facebook page beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday.
From the Great Plains Conference Website:
Join in a worship service to celebrate the installation of new District Superintendents Rev. Tom Brady serving Five Rivers and Parsons Districts, Rev. Jenny Collins Flint Hills and Topeka Districts and Rev. Dee Williamston serving Hutchinson and Salina Districts. The combined worship service will be the first in a joint online service for all 6 districts. We will get to hear from each of the District Superintendents [in] an hour[-long service] of worship. Everyone will be invited to leave a word, prayer or scripture verse blessing their new District Superintendent in the chat window at the end of the service.
You Can register to attend online.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information on how to link in by computer or phone.
You can also download a bulletin.
I’m replacing a previous post with this one after hearing Bishop Saenz make clarifications at our Orders and Fellowship Meeting last Wednesday (January 15, 2020).
Bishop Saenz has released a letter to United Methodists in the Great Plains Conference about the recently released Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace. The protocol allows traditionalists to leave the United Methodist Church with their assets. Those of us who remain would retain the United Methodist name and organization. (Please remember that the UMC’s position cannot change until there is a vote of the General Conference.)
Under the protocol, local churches would not be required to take a make a decision or take a vote. I see nothing to be gained in taking a vote here at First UMC; nonetheless, I believe there is a great deal to be gained from the discernment process the Bishop put forth in his letter. I invite you to enter into a time of discernment with prayer, the reading of scripture, and requests for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Please also note that while the letter refers to progressives, centrists, and traditionalists for the sake of clarity, there are very few United Methodists who fall cleanly and completely under any of those categories. (The Bishop told conference clergy, at a meeting last Wednesday, that he regretted the use of the binary categories of traditional and progressive in the letter.) I would urge you not to let these labels, and the place they have in our political discourse, skew your discernment. As the Bishop noted at our Clergy meeting, the post-separation United Methodist Church will have a place for everyone: progressives, centrists, and even conservatives. As he said, “Nobody is told to leave, everyone is invited to stay.” The United Methodist Church will continue to be a place of diverse theological backgrounds and outlooks.
Bishop Saenz issued a message for advent. Due to some technical difficulties we were unable to share the message with the 10:30 worship service. You can watch it below.
There is a summary of the 2019 Great Plans Annual Conference available at http://bit.ly/2XA5TXk. I plan to post about the Great Plains Annual Conference’s response to the 2019 General Conference in February when I get back from vacation. In the meantime, I will simply say that nothing has changed yet. If you affirm LGBTQ+ equality you have a lot of company within our Annual Conference. If you support the United Methodist Church’s current position, well the Annual Conference cannot override the actions of the General Conference.
This year’s meeting of the Great Plains Annual Conference was (in my opinion) fairly unremarkable, but if you’re interested there are videos and summaries here: http://bit.ly/2uFGhMr
Written summaries are under “View the daily GPconnect.”