UMC NEXT- I am so right brain, and I am trying to listen deeply: to what is being said by my colleagues but also the Holy Spirit. I want to be fully present at UMC Next! However, here are a few impressions.
The opening worship called us to “‘practise living into the beloved community… to be the church we longed to belong to”. The day was seasoned with the words and ethics of Doctor King. I thought of how King reminded us: “the ends never justify the means, for the means are the ends in the making.” I loved Adam Hamilton’s gentle reminder to leave the judging to God. I thought of Paul’s injunction: “think not of yourself …”
During worship’s extended-play passing of the peace, I rejoiced to see so many wonderful, but for this post unnamed leaders, from our Tennessee and Memphis Conferences. We have been asked not share who is at the Next-UMC conference without the person’s permission. I generally disagree with closed meeting. However, I broke bread with a clergy member of a deep south church, who was told he would likely be moved for attending the Conference. He came anyway. So I understand the reasoning.
As to business, we ruminated on five basic or guiding principles.
We will not accept the traditional plan approved at general conference 2019.
We are committed to be a church of inclusion and justice for all people. (Justice and listening to those at the margins was a theme of the whole day)
We call for the elimination of the incompatible language and restrictions and penalties in the discipline in regards to LGBQIA persons.
We are committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity that embraces both the evangelical and the social gospel as we seek to follow Jesus Christ.
We believe this vision is the key to a hope-filled future in the UMC.
After the general session ended, we who remained, heard a report from the Our Way Forward Gathering (a gathering in Minneapolis focussed on queer and people of color). There was pain, but also a good deal of hope. The RMN gathering spoke of the sin of gradualism. I loved the concept to liberation-ist instead progressive! I was concerned that we did not hear many queer and queer allies from the deeper south. A Gay man from the south said, “perhaps you have noticed that we have not heard from gay clergy in the south” and went on to explain why that might be. Perhaps our kindred in welcoming and affirming annual conferences might consider that there may be some regional privilege not afforded everyone in the US and global UMC. These sorts of tensions will test our spirits and tax our minds as we seek to birth something new! Pray for our planning processes today! God give us wisdom, love and strength.
I will close with a paraphrase of Psalm 133 that just seems to fit the day
How good and pleasing it is when kindred live together in unity!
That peace is like expensive oil poured over the head,
running down the face of those being ordained—
over their collars, dripping onto their black robes and red stoles.
Peace is like the gentle morning dew on Mount Hermon
streaming down onto the mountains of Zion,
The songbirds singing as the sun fills the day
For our help comes from the Lord,
Who calls us into the blessing of everlasting peace. Amen