First elected clergy and lay delegates to General Conference 2020 offer a video perspective on the work of the conference in the wake of decisions by the UMC to further restrict queer clergy and same-sex marriage.
More than 200 United Methodists from the Western Jurisdiction gathered Nov. 14-16 to cast a vision and dream of a future for The United Methodist Church that is diverse and inclusive of “all God’s children.”
Participants at the Fresh United Methodism Summit at Rolling Hills United Methodist Church included the Western Jurisdiction bishops, delegates to the 2020 General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference, communicators and other leaders as well as a limited number of observers.
By the summit’s end, a working group of five clergy and five laity were elected as a visioning team. That team will bring a report to the 2020 Western Jurisdictional Conference to be held July 15-18, 2020, in Billings, Montana.
- Regina Walker, Desert Southwest
- Nica Sy, Pacific Northwest
- Kelly Marciales, Alaska
- Amy Go, Mountain Sky
- Paul Cosgrove, Oregon-Idaho
- The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, Desert Southwest
- The Rev. Joe Kim, Pacific Northwest
- The Rev. Jasper Peters, Mountain Sky
- The Rev. Wendy Woodworth, Oregon-Idaho
- The Rev. Dale Weatherspoon, California-Nevada
That plan came after hours of conversations, reams of sticky notes and large newsprint pages overflowing with ideas of what kind of future the participants want for a “fresh Methodism.”
“There was a lot of energy around the room of what we wanted to get to but not how we were going to get there,” said the Rev. Joe Kim, pastor of Bothell United Methodist Church, Washington. Kim presented the plan for the team to the summit and is now a member of the team.
“I am thankful the body was willing to put the trust in the people who are here,” he said. “I am hopeful they can go beyond the baggage of institutional hierarchy and bureaucracy to dream something.”
The team will bring a draft report to the Western Jurisdiction. The draft will be “the mission and structure of what new thing we could affiliate to with or without The United Methodist Church,” Kim said.
At the core of the summit was affirmation of LGBTQ people and their role in the church. The gathering asked participants to prepare for the 2020 General Conference and what the future might be for the Western Jurisdiction if the church decides to stay with the Traditional Plan.
Legislation passed by the 2019 General Conference maintains the church stance, which dates to 1972, that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” That legislation, known as the Traditional Plan, strengthened church bans against ordination of “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and same-sex unions.
The new legislation goes into effect Jan. 1 in the U.S. and a year after the 2020 General Conference in church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.
“We see the Summit as an important model for the future, where we rely less on formal processes, and put our trust in the movement of the Holy Spirit and the relational connections built through our discernment and work together,” said the Rev. Donna Pritchard, chair of the Leadership Team, in a report released after the meeting.
The team called the summit “a movement moment.” Pritchard said the future of the church will come from the vision of young people.
Ryland Christian Fernandez, a young leader from the California-Nevada Conference, said the summit gave him hope amid the “chaos in The United Methodist Church” that had him wondering where he would end up.
“Let this be a call to action. The young people are in your communities and it is time to go to them, it is time to start walking with them. Go to them and ask them what can we do for you and what can you offer us?” he said.
Participants also affirmed the Western Jurisdiction Theological Declaration that stated the 2019 General Conference approval of the Traditional Plan “pushed The United Methodist Church off its theological foundation.”
The four-page theological declaration was developed by a work group chaired by the Rev. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, Claremont School of Theology president. The Rev. Patricia Farris, chair of the Claremont School of Theology board of trustees, was the primary author, Kuan said.
Bishop Karen P. Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference said that she would reject even so-called “friendly” complaints against clergy that are strictly based on sexual orientation or the fact that the clergy had performed same-gender marriage ceremonies.
The process “creates harm,” she said, “and I am unwilling to do that with people who have been properly vetted. There is no second-class citizenship in the family of faith. If I receive any such complaints, I will file them away.”
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the California-Nevada Conference agreed.
“I am with Sister Karen,” Carcaño said. “I will set aside complaints that are simply based on (the person’s) gender identity and sexual orientation.”
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area said the bishops didn’t consider what they did a moratorium.
“You can proclaim a moratorium, but it doesn’t stop anyone from making a complaint. A moratorium is someone’s hope, but there’s no teeth in it,” she said.
The Safe Harbor Declaration was a way to share risk, said Bishop Grant Hagiya, who leads the California-Pacific Conference. He reported that growing number of retired bishops have agreed to perform same-gender marriage ceremonies in lieu of active clergy doing so. That removes active clergy from the threat of reprisals, he said.
Retired Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, the only retired bishop present, stepped up to say, “And I’m one of the bishops willing to do so.”
Carcaño noted that for the active bishops, “It is humbling to get your affirmation and your praise.
“But we build on the hard work of bishops and conference leaders who have come before us — a long line of justice leaders,” Carcaño added.
Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Communicators from the Western Jurisdiction contributed to this report. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C., Nov. 6 – As new restrictions loom against LGBTQ+ persons in The United Methodist Church, the five active bishops in the Western Jurisdiction (region of the United States) are offering a Safe Harbor to LGBTQ+ clergy and are urging bishops and other United Methodists to join them.
The bishops have asked their colleagues on the denomination’s Council of Bishops to sign their declaration and urged other clergy and laypersons across the church to join them in supporting the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in all parts of the life of the church. They made their request during the Council’s meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C.
Their action comes as a series of new restrictions tightening the denomination’s prohibition barring LGBTQ+ persons from ordination as clergy goes into effect on Jan. 1.
“We intend to provide safe harbor for clergy under our care who may be at risk under the new provisions, prohibitions, and punishments,” the bishops said.
“We do not believe that The United Methodist Church has the authority or the power to impose limits on the movement of God’s Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s beloved LGBTQ+ children.
“We intend to exercise our authority as bishops of The United Methodist Church to encourage and protect the full participation of LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, embraced in God’s reign of grace.”
Understanding that it is impossible to accomplish this without recognizing how God calls people of all sexual orientations to ministry, they write, “We do not intend to withhold or challenge ordination based solely on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. We are unwilling to punish clergy who celebrate the marriage of two adults of any gender or sexual orientation seeking the blessing of God and the Church for their covenanted life together.”
The new restrictions will make it easier to file complaints against LGBTQ+ persons seeking to enter into ministry and provide for mandatory punishments against clergy convicted of presiding over same-sex weddings. There is no other place in church law that requires mandatory punishments.
To sign and show support for the bishops’ declaration, click here.
Click here for the full text of their declaration.
Click here to watch a video of the bishops talking about this statement.
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In the wake of the exclusionary and punitive actions of General Conference 2019, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is announcing the formation of a Greater Northwest Area Guiding Coalition. The coalition will help to shape and lead a new movement of Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQIA+persons in membership, participation and leadership, both lay and ordained.
In conversations with people inside and outside our churches, listening deeply to voices on the margins, the group will develop proposals for United Methodists across the Greater Northwest to move into a future of vital, inclusive, innovative, multiplying, engaged Christian ministry in the Wesleyan Tradition.
“We are forming this Guiding Coalition in response to many conversations since last February, and to legislation passed at the annual conference sessions earlier this year,” shared Stanovsky. “It is clear that we need to be both strategic and collaborative in this moment, when the generous practice of United Methodism is under attack. The coming months may require us to move quickly and rely on our collective strength.”
The Guiding Coalition is comprised of representatives from the three conferences that make up the Greater NW Episcopal Area – The Alaska Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, and The Pacific Northwest Conference.
According to Stanovsky, the coalition will embody practices and values that build on strengths already present in the Greater NW Area. Previous discussions in the area have identified the need for deeper Christian discipleship and community engagement, including stronger ministries of solidarity, justice, and mercy.
The Guiding Coalition will invite work groups of laity and clergy to examine areas where the conferences can shape or define a way forward. One group will consider how the area can continue to resist the harmful remnants of the Traditional Plan that were passed by the 2019 General Conference while seeking to reform the Church through legislative action in 2020. Another will look at financial resources, including apportionments, seeking to align them with the values and concerns of United Methodists in the Northwest. And yet another will strive to discern what a new expression of Methodism might look like if designed for 21st century people living in the Greater Northwest Area.
One group will envision what a “grassroots” connection might look like, built on authentic relationships. Vital conversations across difference — between established and emerging leaders, churches of different hearts, minds, and experiences — will be explored. The group will also look forward to the 2020 Shared Greater NW Annual Conference Session in June, with anticipation for the potentially monumental decisions that may need to take place.
Members of the Greater NW Guiding Coalition include: Jim Doepken, Jo Anne Hayden, Kelly Marciales and Carlo Rapanut from the Alaska Conference; Wendy Woodworth, Jan Nelson, Mark Bateman, Rick Shewell, Jeremy Smith, Paul Cosgrove, Karen Hernandez, Allen Buck, Carter Lybeck, Laurie Day, and Donna Pritchard from the Oregon-Idaho Conference; and Skylar Bihl, Brant Henshaw, Joe Kim, Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, David Reinholz, Katy Ritchey, Elizabeth Schindler, Dionica Sy, Kathleen Weber, Karen Yokota Love, David Valera and Kristina Gonzalez from the Pacific Northwest Conference.
Many more people will participate in the workgroups as they form in the weeks ahead.