Upcoming Conference to Celebrate Inclusiveness; Focus on Choices and Consequences Facing United Methodism
By Donald E. Messer
Instead of fearing what it might mean to have a truly inclusive church, United Methodists in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana, are already living the future envisioned by the “One Church Plan” being promoted by the Council of Bishops for adoption at the upcoming 2019 General Conference.
At the second annual “Toward An Inclusive Church” Conference Friday, November 16, at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, laity and clergy will celebrate the past two years of spiritual leadership provided by Bishop Karen P. Oliveto, the openly lesbian episcopal leader of the Mountain Sky Area, plus focusing their conversations on the choices and consequences that the denomination may embrace at the February General Conference.
Globally United Methodism stands at the brink of schism, as the church struggles to attain unity without dividing over the question of the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ persons. The “One Church Plan” would permit United Methodists in different parts of the world to operate with different policies. An alternative “Traditionalist Plan” being promoted by conservatives would make the church’s polity more restrictive and enhance penalties for those who violate the church’s stance. Some in the denomination favor “graceful exit” plans that would allow churches to leave the denomination without surrendering their property.
Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the New York Area will keynote the day-long session November 16, emphasizing what a united inclusive church can do in mission and ministry in the world. Bickerton led the highly successful 70 million dollar campaign called “Imagine No Malaria,” that funded health projects throughout Africa addressing malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS.
At the Inclusiveness II conference, attendees will choose from eight workshops, where they will engage with lay and clergy leaders in focused conversations on a variety of subjects, including the various plans being considered, the challenges, choices, and consequences inherent in each of these plans, and the continuing dilemmas faced by the church in terms of racism, sexism, and homophobia. One forum will provide candid conversations of persons sharing what it feels like as a LGBTQ person in the church and society.
Recognizing differences and conflicts in congregations and communities, a team of leaders will explore how to talk to each other in a polarized church and country. Civil discourse is difficult but not impossible among people of faith.
An opportunity to dialogue with the voting delegates to the upcoming General Conference will exist, as well as a workshop outlining what it is like to become a part of the Reconciling Congregation movement.
Persons will have an opportunity to discuss with Bishop Oliveto her new book, deemed in October by The Christian Century as one of the nation’s “Best Sellers”: Together at the Table, Diversity Without Division in The United Methodist Church. Oliveto will preach the concluding worship, serving Holy Communion to all the participants.
Sponsored by the United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy & Friends, along with the Mountain Sky Conference, the cost is $25 (including lunch) Register in advance via the website: umarc.org
Donald E. Messer chairs the United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy. He is Executive Director of the Center for Health and Hope (centerforhealthandhope.org) and President Emeritus of The Iliff School of Theology, Denver, Colorado.
Upcoming Conference Explores Impact of Schism on Mission and Ministry
By Donald E. Messer
October 30, 2018/Highlands Ranch, CO
A church united in mission and ministry raised over $70 million toward eliminating malaria in the world. What happens, however, to the church’s outreach, if in a few months United Methodism splinters and endless legal battles possibly absorb the faith community’s attention and resources?
Questions like this will permeate the day-long second annual “Toward An Inclusive Church II” Conference on Friday, November 16 at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, Highlands Ranch, Colorado. Sponsored for laity and clergy by the United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy (UMARC) and the Mountain Sky Conference, three United Methodist Bishops and other church leaders will provide perspectives on how the church might move forward towards inclusiveness and diversity without becoming divided and schismatic.
Keynoting the event will be Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of New York, who successfully led the highly successful “Imagine No Malaria” campaign that raised over 70 million dollars. Bishop Karen P. Oliveto of Colorado will challenge the church to overcome its tendency to exclusiveness and stigmatizing the LGBTQ community. By video Bishop Julius Trimble of Indiana will emphasize the church’s calling to find a way forward that will enhance the church’s mission and ministry.
The event is scheduled on the eve of an unprecedented special General Conference to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019, when 864 delegates from around the world will come together to debate whether The United Methodist Church should tighten its restrictions or remove its prohibitions against ordaining gay & lesbian persons and performing marriages for same-sex loving couples. Currently the church seeks to enforce policies based on the premise that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Some 58% of the delegates are from the United States and 30% from Africa, with the remaining from the Philippines and Europe.
“Focused Conversations” will be held during the November 16 conference, so laity and clergy can converse with their elected delegates and review the legislative options coming before the special General Conference, Other workshops will hear persons related to the LGBTQ community tell their stories, explore issues related to racism and sexism, and probe how people in the church can promote civility despite polarized perspectives.
Conference co-chairs, Rev. Dr. Donald E. Messer, Centennial, CO, and Rev. Dr. Harvey C. Martz, indicated this year’s conference is intended to prepare persons to understand how “the denomination is at a dangerous crossroads in mission and ministry.” They note, “however, it also could be a ‘kairos’ moment, when the Holy Spirit breaks though, affirming a way forward that looks more like the inclusive Kingdom of God and beloved community Christians proclaim.”
Register at https://rmcumc-reg.brtapp.com/TowardsanInclusiveChurchConference71. Cost, including lunch, is $25. Persons need to select workshops in advance to ensure appropriate size meeting rooms. The event is from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Live streaming will be available of the plenary sessions and two worships. Details can be be found on the website of the United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy: www.umarc.org