Category Archives: United Methodist Connection

General Conference Summary

This past Sunday, I told the gathered congregation that I could not provide a summary of General Conference because I was still processing it. It was good that I waited. The Council of Bishops has helpfully provided a summary for me:

To the people of The United Methodist Church:

The Council of Bishops brings you greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has called us to be servant leaders of the church. In 1812, Bishop Francis Asbury, Bishop William McKendree and General Conference Secretary Daniel Hitt sent the first letter to churches following General Conference. This letter seeks to revive that tradition. Many bishops will also be communicating individually with their own areas.

Hundreds of lay and clergy delegates from around the world gathered in Portland, Oregon, along with bishops and pastors, church members and staff, volunteers and visitors, to engage in Christian conferencing, to make decisions for our church’s future, to affirm our global connection, to worship and to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

We celebrated the success of our Imagine No Malaria initiative, which seeks to raise $75 million in the fight against malaria, a disease that takes the life of a child in Africa every two minutes. We celebrated our ecumenical partnerships as we move into full Communion with the Uniting Church in Sweden and toward full Communion with the Moravian church. We celebrated our heritage: the 250th anniversary of our oldest church, John Street United Methodist Church, the 200th anniversary of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the 150th anniversary of United Methodist women, the 25th anniversary of Africa University and others.

We continued in our acts of repentance with a presentation from the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes about the Methodist involvement in the 1864 Sand Creek massacre. We shared in the consecration of deaconesses and home missioners and the commissioning of missionaries. We moved toward a global Book of Discipline and global Social Principles. We voted to add five new bishops in Africa after 2020, and approved a churchwide study on our ecclesiology.

The Episcopal address set the tone for the event, focusing on humility and lifting up our accomplishments. We heard from our laity an invitation to members to be more involved in making disciples and getting involved in ministries to bring the love of Christ to others. We heard our young people say they “are engaged in Christ’s journey with energy and love.” We also heard them say clearly that they do not want a divided church and urged us to “be in unity even if we do not have unanimity.” They give us hope for our future.

The body had difficult and challenging work before it as we acknowledged our differences over human sexuality. Amidst those differences, the delegates affirmed they want their bishops to lead and we found ourselves with an opportunity for a holy moment. We spoke candidly about what divides us and what our church might look like in the future if we dared to consider new possibilities. We offered a way forward, postponing decisions about sexuality matters and committing to having a different kind of global conversation that allows all voices to be heard.

Our differences do not keep us from being the body of Christ. They do not keep us from doing good in the world. They do not keep us from making a difference – and so we set forth bold new goals: to make a million new disciples of Jesus Christ; to engage 3 million new people to make a difference in the world; to transform 400 communities for vital abundant living; to reach a million children with lifesaving health interventions; and to double the number of vital congregations.

Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stay united. We proved that we are more than debates and divisions, more than rules and resolutions. We stood together as the body of Christ. As we reflect on our time in Portland, our prayer is for unity in the church for the advancement of our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

As John Wesley reminded us, “Best of all, God is with us.”

Signed on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council

Where the Church Stands on Homosexuality

The General Conference of the United Methodist Church reached an impasse over the church’s stance on homosexuality. The conference requested leadership from the Council of Bishops (the bishops are the executive branch, General Conference is the legislative branch, and thus they waited for the request rather than take action on their own). The bishops offered leadership, which was originally rejected but later adapted. In short all debate on LGBT+ issues was postponed and a study committee will be appointed to bring recommendations to the next General Conference in 2020 or to a special, called General Conference in 2018 or 2019.

Here’s the statement from the Council of Bishops:

Here’s an article that details the process by which it was adopted:

I really don’t have anything to add at the moment; I’m still sorting things out.

Voice of the Day: There Is Wisdom in Church

I’ve long appreciated the insights of Rev. Dan Dick. He has a heart-breaking and heart-warming account of day six of General Conference. He ends with the following two sentences:

There is a wisdom in group process — therefore, there is a wisdom in “church.”  When we gather as baptized community and are open to the Holy Spirit, some pretty amazing things happen. — Dan Dick.

The above insight is true not only of what can happen at General Conference, but of what can happen in local churches. I’ve seen it before here in Abilene First UMC and, by the grace of God, I trust I will see it again.


Pray for the United Methodist Church

A friend and clergy colleague, Rev. Heather Hensarling, posted the following statement on her Facebook page yesterday (as General Conference began). I’m sharing it with her permission. If I substitute “Council Grove” for “Forest Hill” and “Great Plains” for “Mississippi,” it speaks for me.

Today, and in the days ahead, let us all be in prayer for our dear, United Methodist Church. This church has helped to shape and form the person I have become and am becoming. For better or worse, she has held me in her arms and has imbued in me the greatest knowledge of all…”Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” I may not be the best Christian in the world, but I am a follower of Jesus because of those first little lessons I learned at Forest Hill Methodist Church. Church, I have no desire to be proud of you, but I do not want to be embarrassed by you either. GC2016: Be faithful. Be kind. See the good in one another and love one another just as Christ has loved you. Stand on the promises and not on the differences. And to my own Mississippi Delegation, remember to pause and pray before you speak. Pause and pray before you vote. Seek the face of Christ in every face represented. And know that we are praying for each and every one of you. May you be grounded in peace and love from the inside out. God bless us everyone.


Salina District Mission Fair

The Salina District will be holding a mission fair to recognize and celebrate missions. Everyone is invited to this event, which will be held Saturday, April 23rd from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Concordia First United Methodist Church, 740 W 11th Street, Concordia, Kansas. A special message will be delivered by Dr. Israel Kamudzandu, a professor at St. Paul School of Theology. A gospel musical concert will be provided by Rev. Faith Nyagato, a  United Methodist preacher, singer, and songwriter from Dallas Texas. John and Jenny will both be going. Please let us know if you would like to attend.

John Wesley on Schism

This is my third post in a row on homosexuality. Sorry to keep bringing up the issue, but things keep coming up. This time it’s an article by Ricky Harrison that expresses my deep desire for the United Methodist Church to remain united despite our differences. Add to the fact that this article on a relevant issue references John Wesley and I just can’t help myself.

The article references John Wesley’s sermon “On Schism.” Schism is the formal term for a church split. It is an ugly term for an ugly thing. I agree with John Wesley when he says

“Do not rashly tear asunder the sacred ties which unite you to any Christian society. …  take care how you tend the body of Christ by separating from your brethren. It is a thing evil in itself. It is a sore evil in its consequences.”

Abilene First United Methodist Church is a church of great diversity, theological and otherwise. I believe that our diversity enriches our common life together, despite the difficulties it sometimes entails. There are situations in which schism is an unavoidable evil, but I do not believe our current differences on the issue of homosexuality constitute one of those situations.

Link to John Wesley’s sermon, “On Schism”:
Link to Ricky Harrison’s article at the United Methodist Reporter:

Connectional Table Proposes Changes

crossThe United Methodist Reporter (an independent publication) has a good article on a recent development in the church’s ongoing debate about homosexuality. The Connectional Table, the “visioning” body of the general church, has proposed changes that The Reporter summarizes as follows:

“The proposal would allow United Methodist clergy to perform ceremonies that celebrate same-sex unions in United Methodist churches if they wish; clergy who do not wish to perform such ceremonies would not be required to do so. The proposal also removes being a practicing homosexual or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies from the list of chargeable offenses for clergy. In addition, the proposal removes the language that says the church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers it incompatible with Christian teachings, while recognizing this has historically been the position of the church.”

I don’t know what will come of this, and I don’t think anyone else does either. We’ll have to wait to General Conference 2016 to see what happens.


In Denver

crossJenny, Liz and I are in Denver, Colorado. Jenny is attending training meetings for the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Liz and I are here because we have access to a hotel room in Denver via Jenny.

I’m not technically on vacation, and I am, in fact, hoping to get quite a bit of work done. (Among other things, Sunday’s sermon isn’t going to write itself.) Feel free to call me on my cell if you need anything. Jenny will be in meetings all the way through Friday noon and will be harder to reach.

In case your wondering what Liz and I have planned for leisure time: supper at Which Wich, a visit to the Downtown Aquarium, a stop at a wonderful used bookstore called the Tattered Cover located in an old theatre (books-check, theatre-check), several swims and a pilgrimage to Ikea.