Category: GC2016

Day 11- Called Home

This was written on Thursday evening by Sally Queen, but I think it speaks for many of us.  We are all “called home” to be in ministry in the place we call home. MR

by Sally Queen

gc2016-logo-color-web-690x370Tomorrow morning, I head home to see my family, sleep in my bed, and return to the work to which I am called.  I remember telling Bishop Goodpaster that I hoped I would still love the church after two weeks of General Conference.  Being a first timer has been eye opening, tiring, and heart breaking and it has been engaging and inspiring.  As much as the legislation seems to drag along and the differing points of view seem to abound, the spirit of God is at work through the church I call my home.

 

I celebrate the mission and ministry that the United Methodist Church is engaged in throughout the world especially in regards to the Imagine No Malaria campaign that has helped to drastically reduce the number of children who die from malaria.  I celebrate all the deaconesses, home missioners, and missionaries we have been commissioned for life giving ministry to our hurting world.  I celebrate the social justice actions that our church stands for and represents.  I celebrate the clergy and laity who give of their time to serve and to lead our church.  I celebrate that I was here to celebrate the 60 year anniversary of full clergy rites to women.  I celebrate that General Conference gifted our bishops the chance to speak and lead and I celebrate that we took a step toward maintaining unity.  I celebrate that folks from different perspectives will be brought to the table to talk, listen, and discern the future of our church.

 

For me, this step is one of hope and possibility.  Many fear that this may be the end of the middle and that our church will ultimately divide.  What comes to my mind when thinking about division is one of the most insightful words I heard a person say as they contemplated separation in their marriage after a hurtful action.  The person said, “I cannot make the decision from a place of bitterness and must press on until my decision can be made from a place of love.”  I pray that our step at this General Conference will be time for us to trust, pray and breathe, so that our decision for the future can be made out of love.  Many are critiquing saying we have done nothing and are leaving much undone and to that I say, our bitterness abounds.  We disagree and we have hurt each for too long.  If we had made another decision, particularly around human sexuality, our decision would have been made out of bitterness.  I am hopeful and see the possibility for a decision made out of love as God calls people to the table for conversation.

 

For two weeks our theme has been “Therefore Go,” and so I return home loving the church and ready to transition back to leading a local church.  I am so excited and hope filled for all the possibilities.  I am energized and ready to do that to which I am called…to be a mama preacher.  After the hugs and kisses from my family, our first item on the agenda is to dance.  On Saturday, I will watch my girls make magic on the stage as they dance their hearts out and I will join them tap dancing with my adult friends to Uptown Funk.  This home seems far away from the Oregon Convention Center.  And thanks be to God that it is the home I call my own.

 

Rev. Sally Queen is a reserve clergy delegate from Gastonia, NC

GC2016 May 20- UPDATE

The altar of morning worship features Native American art May 20 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS
The altar of morning worship features Native American art May 20 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

Delegate Updates

Each day there will be a wrap-up from one of the delegates from the Western North Carolina Conference.

Day 11- Called Home  | Sally Queen

See all of the delegate updates at General Conference News

Daily Christian Advocates

Daily Christian Advocate for Saturday, May 21, 2016

See earlier DCA’s at General Conference News

Other News

Selected News Stories

UM News Service-GC2016

Selected Multimedia

UM News Service Photos

Links to important information:

Day 10- Random Reflections on My Experience at General Conference 

by Kim Ingram

I fear that the reports from this General Conference will be the same as what we heard after 2012: “We didn’t get anything done.”  However, we were told this afternoon that about 400 petitions have been approved. I participated in the Higher Education and Ministry and Superintendency legislative committee.  We began our work with 243 petitions.  We divided into 5 subcommittees and the work was distributed among those committees.  These small groups engaged in deep discussion and made recommendations to the full committee.  The full committee acted on as much legislation as we had time.  These small groups allowed for participants to get to know each other and to share intimately at times. 72 of these items have been approved as of this afternoon.  We made collegiate ministry a priority, expanded options for Course of Study, encouraged translation and cultural accommodations be made for candidates, approved group mentoring for local pastors and much more.

Kim Ingram on Tuesday Morning

Much has been said about the contention, hurt, pain, anger, and ugliness that has been experienced at General Conference.  And, there has been some of that.  But, it’s not the whole story. Here is what my new friend, Alice Williams, from Florida wrote to me about her experience in sub-committee discussion about the allowance of clergy to marry two gay persons:

If we need a model of what holy conferencing looks like, it is what took place in sub-committee during this discussion.  The sub-committee represented the diversity of our denomination in both demographics and beliefs.  The conversation was genuine, Spirit-led, respectful and enabled all present to be heard.  There were impactful stories of what it means to be in ministry regarding this issue, as well as reminders of severe cultural implications.  Several of the sub-committee have commented that this conversation was one of those defining moments that they will long-remember.

The best part of General Conference for me has been hearing the stories, celebrating ministries, and renewing and making friendships. There have been many reports about ministries churches are doing in their communities, around the world. We have heard story upon story about ways the Church is feeding the hungry, providing safe access to clean water, marching for peace in Korea, and even transforming a church building into a rock climbing venue where community is experienced. Today there was discussion on the floor about whether “transforming the world” is part of our mission as a church and our work as disciples.  I was amazed that we were having the conversation.  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

I made a new friend, Rev. Dr. Sergei Nikolaev. He was the vice chair on the legislative committee that I chaired.  As subcommittees worked, we had a lot of time to chat.  He is the President of the Moscow Theological Seminary, a UM seminary in Russia. He is Russian but has lived significant time in the United States.  His wife is American. He introduced me to the idea of “third culture,” what it is like not to feel you have a cultural home.  He recommended the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David C. Pollock and Ruth E. VanReken.  I imagine this is an idea that can be helpful in our ministry as North Carolina becomes more diverse and we minister with second and third generation Americans.

My roomie, Jennifer Davis, and I had a chance to share cards and meal coupons with two men we passed on the way back to our room. They were holding a sign indicating they were hungry. GC4JC (General Conference for Jesus Christ), headed up by two of our own – Laura Beach and Kevin Miller – gave the opportunity to show love in tangible ways.

GC4J

The youth and children at the church where I worship – First UMC in Belmont – made bird seed ornaments to feed the birds and dog treats to feed the dogs and sold them to make money to purchase GC4JC meal coupons at $2.00 each.  They raised $272 through the sale.  They made 76 cards to be distributed by delegates and visitors along with the meal coupons.  What an exciting way for children and youth all around the country to be involved in ministry during General Conference in Portland. Learn more on their Facebook page.

All of this said, I am proud to be a United Methodist. We are a people of hope.  We are a people of love.  We are a people of mercy. While negativity seems to prevail this week, there is much for which to be thankful, positive, and hope-full. At the end of each day, we still raise our voices in song together.  I’m not naïve.  We have a lot of work to do.  There’s a lot I don’t understand.  There’s a lot I want to change.  And, if we keep telling the stories and sharing God’s love, I am confident the world will be transformed.

Kim Ingram is the WNC Conference Secretary and a clergy delegate

GC2016 May 20- UPDATE

Yambasu
Bishop John Yambasu gives the sermon during morning worship May 19 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Delegate Updates

Each day there will be a wrap-up from one of the delegates from the Western North Carolina Conference.

Day 10-  Random Reflections on My Experience at General Conference | Kim Ingram

See all of the delegate updates at General Conference News

Daily Christian Advocates

Daily Christian Advocate for Friday, May 20, 2016

See earlier DCA’s at General Conference News

Other News

Bishop Goodpaster was recognized as a retiring Bishop on Thursday at General Conference-

Lynne Gilbert was on the big screen on Thursday afternoon presenting a minority report (that passed):

delegation
Photo of the WNCC delegation on Thursday afternoon- posted by James Howell

Selected News Stories

UM News Service-GC2016

Selected Multimedia

UM News Service Photos

Links to important information:

Day 9- “Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer”

by Ashley Crowder Stanley

ASC 1My 87 year old, retired, United Methodist minister father broke his hip two weeks before General Conference 2016 was scheduled to begin in Portland.  Over the last few years, our family has been holding our collective breath as we observed his determined yet unsteady gait grow wobblier. We have held on to his elbow as he walked, encouraged the constant use of a cane and prayed for his safety. But, two weeks ago, he lost his balance and all six feet, five inches of him landed on the floor and within 18 hours, he was in surgery, receiving a hip replacement. A long, highly dependent recovery was in front of him.

Ten days later, four days before I was to leave for General Conference, dad contracted pneumonia.  I had visited enough octogenarian church members over the years to know that this new diagnosis was a serious one, potentially life-threatening and after hearing it, I found a quiet corner in the hallway rehab center and cried tears of fear, grief and release.  I wiped my eyes, went back into his room to kiss him goodnight and went home to write our delegation chairperson to let her know that I could not possibly travel across the country for two weeks when my parents were in this trying, unprecedented time in their lives.  I wanted to stay home and be in close proximity to them. “Stay,” my heart told me, “stay and help make things better.”

The next evening, I went to see my father and he told me that he felt weak but that his physical therapy had gone well.  He said that he was determined to beat the pneumonia and “get home to mom.”  As a former Duke basketball player and an athlete all his life, Dad has always believed that trying harder and remaining focused on the goal would overcome almost anything.  I am glad he is wired that way.

As I got ready to leave to go home and get some rest before a busy church day ahead, he delivered his main point of the night:  he beckoned me to come close to him, reached out his gnarled, beautiful hand, held mine in his and said:  “Ashley, it would break my heart if you don’t go to General Conference.  You have to go. The church needs you.  Please promise me that you will go.” I could not promise him because I wanted to stay.  “I’ll pray about it dad, but at the moment, I cannot imagine going to Portland. I believe I need to stay, ” I said.

ASC-2Staying or Going?  After a night of wrestling, I boarded the plane the next morning and came to Portland. Once here, I realized that on a deeper level, this internal struggle of “staying or going” had been a part of my life in the United Methodist Church since I was a young seminary student in the late 1970’s.   As I began seminary, I knew that Jesus was taking up more room in my heart than ever before and that I was being stirred into giving my life over to his service. Yet, I had no language for or experience with what was happening to me: with the exception of hearing an Episcopal woman preach at Duke Chapel during my senior year of undergraduate school, I had never actually known a woman clergy or that a woman could be a clergy.  So, being called into ordained ministry was not really in my repertoire of possibility.

Looking back at this time,  I know that the Spirit was at work in me to find a way, to stay, to do something hard and hopefully, to make a difference with my “one, wild and precious life.”·  My teachers and CPE supervisors encouraged me and said that the church needed my gifts and my voice. And when theology professor Robert Cushman read this from II Corinthians 5: “…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us,” I knew my life was to be connected to this purpose.   This scripture would become the foundation and the wings of my call; it would help me stay in the church and also go into the places of greatest need, whether they were places of poverty of resources or poverty of spirit. I felt deeply called to stay close to this ministry of reconciliation and to this church that valued connection.

And so, glowing with anticipation, I met with my Bishop who encouraged me to use my gifts elsewhere, perhaps in a part-time children’s ministry, but certainly not in ordained ministry.  “How, “the Bishop asked me, “could I itinerate if I ever married? What local church would have me as a woman?”  In many ways, I felt as if I had being encouraged to “go,” and not in an encouraging “go, therefore” kind of way.  Just go.

“Stay,” my heart told me, “stay.”  And I did, and I have.  Yet, thirty-one years after my ordination as an elder, I can honestly say that the “staying vs. going” dialogue continues.  When I encounter racism, sexism and hatred towards other children of God, I want to “go.”  When I see beloved children of God left out and spiritually disenfranchised, I want to “go.” When we at General Conference are given opportunities to make a powerful, grace-filled witness to this broken world and instead, we navel gaze and consume our time with the tired and heartless debate on who has a place at the table, I want to “go.” When the Church could use its considerable collective resources to make disciples for the transformation of the world and instead allows itself to be paralyzed by the fear of loss (of members, money, status, identity), I want to “go.”  And, I believe, others feel the same way.  In fact, I know people at this very General Conference who are wrestling with this dilemma right now:  should they stay and keep trying to make a difference within the denomination or should they go to a new church, or no church at all?  What should we do?

Jesus’ disciples must have felt that way as he led them out to Bethany on that Ascension Day:  what should they do in this next season of their lives?  Should they stay together?  Or, should they split up and go their own ways?  How could they best live out the call Jesus had placed on their lives to “feed my sheep, love my sheep” and “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?”

Jesus spoke into their wondering temptation towards spiritual inertia and commissioned them to be radically transformed by His all-encompassing message. To his friends, he said: “You are witnesses of these things… I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high… and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them” (Luke 24: 48-49).

And we know what happened next:  Pentecost! Unity! Hope! Great witness from people who would have never, ever been obvious candidates for ministry or for lay leadership.  “Stay until the Spirit comes,” Jesus said.  And from all I can glean today, the Spirit is here and has always been here, forever speaking a common language of love into our hard, embattled and stubborn hearts if we would only get out of the way and listen.

ASC-3In every season of my ministry, when I have wanted to go (run), God has called me to stay and wait for the Spirit to comfort, inspire and clarify my heart.  Without fail, God has reminded me of the high and holy work of bridge building reconciliation that requires my heart and soul. Even when I want to hide or flee or roll my eyes in frustration at the molasses-pace of church politics, God whispers: “stay with me, help me do a new thing in my church, it is eternally important to get this right.  And don’t forget this:  I have sent the Spirit to guide you.  You are not alone. Whether you are waiting for direction or moving out in trembling faith, I will be with you.”

“Stay and help make things better” my heart tells me.  “Stay and work for the transformation of our church to be a place where all are welcomed and loved and so that then we can ‘therefore go’ together, in the light of the loving, unifying and re-creating Spirit.”  And so, for another day, another hour, I will stay and pray and hope and build that reconciliation bridge between who I am and who God called me to be, between who we are as a church and who God longs for us to be.

Rev. Ashley Crowder Stanley is the Sr. Pastor at Mills River UMC and clergy delegate to General Conference

· Mary Oliver in poem “The Summer Day”

Day 9- The Joys of Being a Global Church

By Jeff Patterson

Sometimes it is hard being a global church.  Getting together is easy, but staying together can be very difficult. People from different continents think differently and sometimes cultures and ideas clash. One area of great difference of opinion is in the area of human sexuality. Even homogenous people have a difficult time finding common ground in the debates that surround a discussion of human sexuality, but bringing different cultures together can be even more difficult. In recent days at our international General Conference, we have been struggling with this topic even to the point of talk concern division or schism.  This has been very painful. Sometimes it is hard being a global church.

But, there are also great joys that come with being a global church.  I experienced some of this joy this past Sunday.  On Sunday, May 15, we celebrated Pentecost with a worship service sponsored by the African delegates at General Conference.  It was powerful to be in a place that wasn’t just decorated for Pentecost but a place where Pentecost happened.

The Africa University touring choir sings during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS
The Africa University touring choir sings during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

From the choir processional until the choir recessional (two and one-half hours!), the room was filled with the joy of the Lord.  Even though I don’t speak French or Swahili and sometimes even the English was difficult for me to follow, the joy of the Lord was my constant companion during the service. God’s presence transcended language barriers.

We sang, prayed, sang, prayed, sang, prayed, participated in the sermon, and then sang some more.  Tears came to my eyes as we sang “Elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; her charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.”   The words of the Apostles’ Creed never reverberated in my heart with as much conviction as when we professed our faith together using this creed in all the languages of Africa. Then it certainly felt like a bit of heaven as we shared in Holy Communion and shared the peace of Christ.

The Rev. Jerry Kulah from the Liberia Conference delivers the sermon message during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS
The Rev. Jerry Kulah from the Liberia Conference delivers the sermon message during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS during the African central conferences worship service on Sunday, May 15 at the Oregon Convention Center. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

God is doing a great work in Africa.  The book of Acts is continuing today on that continent.  At the beginning of the service, Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, Zimbabwe Conference, said “We are the renaissance of African Christian. . . We yearn for the days of Augustine.” The Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah, Liberia Conference, preached a passionate sermon on Jeremiah 6 that encouraged the congregation to walk in holiness on the ancient paths of our ancestors.

We know well the challenges that come from being a global church, but we need to also remember that sometimes being part of a global church brings great joy.  On Sunday I was greatly blessed by my United Methodist sisters and brothers from the other side of the globe.  We belong together.  This is the way that it is supposed to be.  Jesus prayed that the church would be one. We need each other.

Sometimes it is hard being a global church.  But, the work to stay together is worth the work.

Rev. Dr. Jeff Patterson is the superintendent of the Yadkin Valley District and a clergy delegate

GC2016 May 18- UPDATE

Swanson
Bishop James Swanson, Jr., preaches on May 18 at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore. Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS.

Delegate Updates

Each day there will be a wrap-up from one of the delegates from the Western North Carolina Conference.

Day 9-  “Stay Just a Little Bit Longer” | Ashley Crowder Stanley
Day 9- The Joys of Being a Global Church 
 | Jeff Patterson

See all of the delegate updates at General Conference News

Daily Christian Advocates

Daily Christian Advocate for Thursday, May 19, 2016

See earlier DCA’s at General Conference News

Other News

In case you missed it, Jeremy Troxler was at the center of a matter about clergy ordination on Wednesday morning:

DSC_0115
Judicial Council rules against mandatory penalties in Just Resolutions

Selected News Stories

UM News Service-GC2016

Selected Multimedia

UM News Service Photos

Links to important information:

Statement from the Council of Bishops- 051816

AN OFFERING FOR A WAY FORWARD

Galatians 3:25-29 (NRSV)

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[a] heirs according to the promise.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops,
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops,

Your bishops were honored to receive the request of General Conference to help lead our United Methodist Church forward during this time of both great crisis and great opportunity.  As far as we can discover, this is the first time that a General Conference has ever made such a request of the Council of Bishops, and we accept this request with humility.

We share with you a deep commitment to the unity of the church in Christ our Lord.  Yesterday, our president shared the deep pain we feel.  We have all prayed for months and continue to do so.  We seek, in this kairos moment, a way forward for profound unity on human sexuality and other matters.  This deep unity allows for a variety of expressions to co-exist in one church.  Within the Church, we are called to work and pray for more Christ-like unity with each other rather than separation from one another.  This is the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21-23. 

UNITY   We believe that our unity is found in Jesus Christ; it is not something we achieve but something we receive as a gift from God.  We understand that part of our role as bishops is to lead the church toward new behaviors, a new way of being and new forms and structures which allow a unity of our mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” while allowing for differing expressions as a global church.  Developing such new forms will require a concerted effort by all of us, and we your bishops commit ourselves to lead this effort.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to affirm your own commitment to maintaining and strengthening the unity of the church.  We will coordinate this work with the various efforts already underway to develop global structures and a new General Book of Discipline for our church.  Strengthening the unity of the church is a responsibility for all of us.

PRAYER  We accept our role as spiritual leaders to lead the UMC in a “pause for prayer” – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.   As a Council of Bishops, we will lead the church in every part of the world in times of worship, study, discernment, confession and prayer for God’s guidance.  We ask you, as a General Conference, to join us in this effort, beginning this week.  We were moved by the sight of delegates praying around the table, and we hope these efforts will continue.  As your bishops we are ready to join you and to lead you in these times of prayer.

PROCESSES   We have discussed in depth the processes which might help our church heal and move forward – up to and including the possibility of a called General Conference in 2018 or 2019.  We have not finalized our plans for such processes, but we will keep working on options we have heard from many of you, and we will keep reporting to this General Conference and to the whole church.

NEXT STEPS   We recommend that the General Conference defer all votes on human sexuality and refer this entire subject to a special Commission, named by the Council of Bishops, to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.  We continue to hear from many people on the debate over sexuality that our current Discipline contains language which is contradictory, unnecessarily hurtful, and inadequate for the variety of local, regional and global contexts.  We will name such a Commission to include persons from every region of our UMC, and will include representation from differing perspectives on the debate.   We commit to maintain an on-going dialogue with this Commission as they do their work, including clear objectives and outcomes. Should they complete their work in time for a called General Conference, then we will call a two- to three-day gathering before the 2020 General Conference.  (We will consult with GCFA regarding cost-effective ways to hold that gathering.)

CONTINUING DISCUSSIONS  We will continue to explore options to help the church live in grace with one another – including ways to avoid further complaints, trials and harm while we uphold the Discipline.  We will continue our conversation on this matter and report our progress to you and to the whole church.

Today, as a way of beginning to find our way forward, we suggest that in place of the allotted legislative time we spend 1-2 hours of plenary time in prayer, confession and exploration of a creative way forward.  The bishops are prepared to provide questions to guide your conversations.  Your conversations will be the first step to a way forward.