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).
Today I’m (virtually) attending the annual clergy gathering and continuing education event in the Great Plains Conference. The theme this year is “Preaching Purple” based on the book Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide by Leah Schade. I’m looking forward to learning how I can better lead First UMC through this difficult time.
I love the United Methodist Church. And I have an attachment to our denomination emblem, the Cross and Flame. However, I recently started seeing it from a different perspective because of an article by Rev. Edlen Cowley. I would encourage you to look at it and let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you drive by the parsonage, you may notice that there is another Camry parked outside. This is the conference car for Jenny’s new appointment as a District Superintendent. The conference provides each D.S. with a vehicle, not as a perk, but because it’s cheaper than paying them mileage. If Jenny drives the car for personal use, she’ll have to pay the conference back for the privilege, so you’ll probably see it sitting out in the driveway a lot.
The United Methodist Building is the only non-governmental building on capital hill. Their signs are almost always witty but profound. The latest iteration reads: “Standing together in solidarity six feet apart.”
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
There’s an updated version of this post here: https://bit.ly/2twyCSX.
Leaders of diverse factions within the United Methodist Church are offering a plan of separation to avoid further infighting within the church over LGBTQ+ inclusion. You can read the article, the “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” itself, and a set of FAQ’s (frequently asked questions) online.
If any of this inclines you to leave, please come talk to Jenny or I first. I have nothing further to offer below but idle speculation:
1. I think the chances of this passing are pretty good. [But I also thought that about the One Church Plan, which failed to pass.]
2. I have no reason to imagine that Abilene First will not remain a part of the United Methodist Church.
3. Even if the plan of separation passes (a big if), I do not think non-affirming folks in this congregation need to worry about an openly LGBTQ+ pastor being appointed here anytime soon. I believe that the conference knows that this church is not ready for that. I would remind you that were a woman appointed here as senior pastor (and not as part of a clergy couple), that in and of itself would be a first. Members of the congregation who are ready for an LGBTQ+ clergy person will have to content themselves with the fact that such folks are being appointed within the denomination. (Remember the above disclaimer about all this being only idle speculation.)
4. Regardless of what happens at general conference, I would encourage the Church Council to endorse Jenny’s and my decision to only perform weddings when at least one person in the couple is an active member of the church (or a previously active youth who graduated and moved away). That would mean that when the issue of a gay wedding arises for this particular local church, it will come up within the context of a beloved member wanting to get married in the church to which they belong. I know of no LGBTQ+ members of this church who are currently engaged. My goal here is not to cut down on the number of gay weddings in particular, but to cut down on the number of weddings that are simply using the building as a backdrop.
Links: https://bit.ly/37zyfFL, https://bit.ly/35nbqDH, and https://bit.ly/2SR3YOs.
A helpful text from my mother pointed out that I did not include a link to the resolution with the underlined and crossed out changes. Here it is: https://revcollins.com/gpac-petition/.
We have been overwhelmed by the response to John’s resolution. We expected 300 supporters total not more than 300 supporters in less than 24 hours. We are unable to keep up. I thank those who have already responded, but we would please ask you to respond again through this Google Form which will automatically tabulate the results. If you cannot, we’ll migrate your information for you. I apologize for the inconvenience. Please feel free to share the link below.
Blessings, John Collins
In response to the 2019 General Conference, I’ve written a Resolution for the Great Plains Annual Conference. You can find it here: https://revcollins.com/gpac-petition/. Clergy and any members of any local church in the Great Plains Annual Conference (that’s us) can sign it. Just drop me a line at email@example.com. I’m doing this manually instead of on a site to try and make sure that everyone who signs up is in the Great Plains Annual Conference. But with over 300 responses already we’re a little bogged down. You can help by clearly listing which of the following applies to you: 1. Clergy Member of the Conference; 2. Lay Member of the Conference; 3. Member of a Local United Methodist Church (if so please include the name of the church, and the town/city and state). Thank you for your support.