Dear General Conference 2019 Delegates:
Thank you for serving our Church as a delegate at this General Conference. I can only imagine the weight you must feel as you hold in your hands decisions that some have said will determine the fate of The United Methodist Church. There is no doubt that the Church that emerges from this General Conference will be different from the one we know today. And, just maybe, that is a good thing.
I have met United Methodists from all over the world in my time as Executive Director at Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), and I have seen just a glimpse of what our global connection could be in the faces and voices of those I have met in conversation about the beauty of our worldwide missions and our hope for the future of our Church. The people I have been blessed to meet on this journey are as diverse as our connection, and yet we share a common faith and this United Methodist Church we love as common ground. When our conversations are missional and not legislative, the passion for and and love of the Church is palpable and contagious.
Of course, there are elements of the Church that must change, and we need better means to make those changes. In addition, our structure and policies need to catch up to the worldwide nature of the denomination. (For example, leaving major decisions until a quadrennial meeting can be problematic in a worldwide church.) But these are solvable problems, and the process of wrestling through them together will strengthen our faith and bonds.
Ours is fertile ground for international mission work – one in which each of us leads in our own context, working with those from other parts of the globe as mission partners. Thus, we strengthen not only our understanding of each other, but also the United Methodist mission in the world. You hold the next steps for our beloved Church in your hands. You will decide whether or not we will take a step toward becoming a more just, inclusive, and loving Church. I know that must feel heavy at times.
Like many of you, I’ve grown tired of the social media back-and-forth about plans, voting, and positioning. Lately, I’ve started listening to other voices: those of everyday Methodists who attend our churches and engage in our ministries. Have you heard the stories that people are sharing in these last weeks?
It has occurred to me as I have read the stories of closeted and out LGBTQ persons – young people and elders of all backgrounds – that very few want our Church to divide or dissolve over “human sexuality.” Most everyday United Methodists want delegates to make a way for them to remain in politically and theologically diverse congregations. Most of us are choosing love, courage, and connection.
As you head into the sessions each day think about relationships in the church, think about the LGBTQ people you know, and take those thoughts with you.
Know that the prayers of an anxious Church are with you. All of us at RMN are praying with and for you each day. We are choosing love, courage, and connection, and we invite you – delegates – to lead us into such a future.
Thank you for your service to our Church at this moment. The love and passion of United Methodists from around the world has given me hope about our future together.