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.
Link to the Protocol: https://bit.ly/2FZtSbj
Link to FAQ about the Protocol: https://bit.ly/360irKT
Link to Bishop Saenz’s Letter: https://bit.ly/2QPOTeB
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.”
Below the fold is a statement from the Bishop of the Great Plains Annual Conference issued August 15, 2017. It is not short, but it is worth your time.
Our newly assigned Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. will be in the Salina District on October 26th meeting our clergy in the afternoon and clergy and laity in the evening from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Salina. First UMC is located downtown Salina at the corner of 8th and Iron Streets (122 North 8th Street). You are invited to come and meet our new Bishop!
The complaint against Rev. Cynthia Meyer has been brought to a “just resolution” that will keep the case from going to trial. You can read the details for yourself here. It’s not what I had hoped for, but it’s far better than I feared. Jenny and I are available if you have questions or just want to talk. If you’re hurting, please know that we are too.
Ruben Saenz Jr. was elected a bishop in the South Central Jurisdiction (our jurisdiction) of the United Methodist Church on Thursday, June 14, 2016, and was assigned the Great Plains Annual Conference (our Annual Conference) Yesterday, June 15, 2016. The Great Plains Conference website has more information.
As you may have already heard, Rev. Cynthia Meyer “came out” as a gay woman to her United Methodist congregation in Edgerton, Kansas this past Sunday. This is not the first time that Jenny and I have heard of her. We have known and appreciated her as a colleague for many years. But our history with her goes back even further. Cynthia also grew up in Council Grove and was one of my babysitters. She was one of the campus ministers at K-State while Jenny was a peer minister there. She was the first person to introduce us to one another (that I remember, Jenny asserts that we had already been introduced).
I can’t say that we were surprised by Sunday’s revelation, and I imagine that many of the members of her congregation were not surprised either. For those of her congregation who were surprised, her sermon was designed to be a gentle, pastoral revelation of who she is and why she was doing what she did. Jenny and I commend it to you.
Jenny and I desire to be the pastors to all the members of First United Methodist Church, those who see this issue the way we see it and those who hold to a more traditional Christian interpretation of the relevant biblical passages. We don’t know what will happen next, but we would echo something that Cynthia said in her sermon:
I’ve come to love you, this congregation, your commitment, care, service and joy. Your faith need not be shaken today, your commitment to one another and this congregation need not waver, for Great is God’s Faithfulness, today and all days.
I’m confident that with God’s help, we, together as a church, can make it through this controversy together.
A link to Rev. Meyer’s Epiphany sermon: http://www.rmnetwork.org/newrmn/epiphany-live-in-the-light/
Bishop Scott Jones has written a thoughtful, carefully considered article on the Syrian Refuge Crisis titled “We Must Recognize We Are Engaged in Cultural War.” I encourage you to read it all. He makes the scriptural argument for welcoming Syrian refugees, and then he says the following:
“When Western countries mistreat and reject Muslims, it becomes a recruiting tool and propaganda weapon for our enemies. I am deeply disappointed that so many governors (including those of Kansas and Nebraska where I serve) have rejected the idea of receiving refugees. They are pandering to our worst fears and failing to lead us to be our best selves as a nation. They are making a strategic mistake and giving aid to our enemies. This culture war will be won by the Christian values of love, tolerance, mutual respect and hospitality. As a nation and as states, we need to welcome the stranger among us.” — Bishop Scott Jones.
Syrian refugees fleeing their homeland are the strongest possible rebuke to ISIS propaganda. I understand the (not unreasonable) fear that many have about welcoming refugees into our communities, but to turn them away is turn our backs on the clear witness of scripture and to do exactly what ISIS would like us to do.
I read the Bishop’s article yesterday and resolved to write the above blog post linking to it today. Then I was confronted with the opportunity to put my money where my mouth was. The District Superintendent called and said they were looking for United Methodist Churches willing to support and sponsor Syrian refugees. She wondered if Abilene First might be one of those churches. After consulting with the lay leader, the chair of the church council, and both lay delegates to Annual Conference, Jenny and I have decided to call a congregational meeting after worship this coming Sunday. Recently we, as a congregation, have practiced holy conferencing around the issues of homosexuality and the separation of church and state. My hope is that we can do the same around this issue.