Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ whose abundant love is always with us!
As United Methodists, our mission, both collective and Connectional, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Now more than ever we are and must remain, committed to this mission in each and every community in the world. It is a mission that requires of us, honesty, respect, humility, courage, and trust in a God who never fails.
This mission also asks each of us to choose hope, as we are reminded in Romans 5:5 (NRSV) that “hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
As many of you are aware the final report of the Commission on a Way Forward, which was formed after the 2016 General Conference, is now available to the public and is the representation of intentional work by leaders (lay and clergy) of vast theological perspectives and values who came together because of their shared love of the mission of the Church, but most importantly their passion and belief that the Potter is not done molding us.
The 93-page report is long in length, taking the time and creating space to read, pray, discern, and process all that is before us and the nuances of each plan will provide each of us accurate information in regards to the breadth of theological differences within our United Methodist Church.
While the three plans provided in this report are our primary focus, please remember that other officially submitted petitions will be presented for consideration during the called Special Session of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church in 2019. The ability to consider other petitions also means that what becomes adopted in St. Louis may differ from the three plans outlined in the report.
2018 Indiana Conference District Call to Prayer and Conversation
I want to invite you to the upcoming District Conversations regarding the A Way Forward report that will be voted on during the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, next February 23-26, in St. Louis, Mo. The final report contains essential background information (how we got to where we are) as well as the text of the plan (One Church) that was supported by a larger majority of the Council of Bishops. The report also includes two additional plans that were reviewed at varying degrees: The Connectional Conference Plan and Traditional Plan (please note that Traditional Plan was provided by a small group of bishops – but was not supported by the Commission.)
While there were discussions and debates about models put forward, as well as of our commitment to our shared public mission and global witness, there was no disagreement that the world needs the Church.
So there is much before us, and there is so much more yet to come. Therefore, let us come to the table together.
Why District Conversations?
As Ephesians 4 reminds us we should “Try always to be led along together by the Holy Spirit so that we might be at peace with one another.” At this moment, we are at a pivotal point for our United Methodist Church and let us not forget that the world in which we minister to is watching as we move forward. In Indiana, we are committed to being a missional connection of churches throughout our communities as the world abroad. And in our quest to be fully missional, we must model what it means to be the Church. Let us come together not to establish or maintain side, but to offer ourselves with hearts of authenticity and transparency, as we move into deeper relationships with one another without the requirement of voting, debating, or coercing. These conversations are an invitation to pray as much as speak, listen, and discern.
How might we advance the mission while we embrace a way forward that fosters unity amidst diversity?
One or some might ask “why now?” and “why a district conversation?” And it is very clear that we are in a critical moment in the history our United Methodist Church and the bodies that preceded us. And while we are not all able to vote on what plan is ultimately adopted by the Special Session of General Conference, we do have the responsibility to be aware of each plans’ implications on our witness to the world. We have a privilege to pray, with and for one another (those with whom we agree and disagree), as well as for our Church around tables or in groups through Christian Conferencing. And we can join in the hope that our United Methodist Church will face the future united in mission and ministry to transform the world for years to come. These conversations will also allow us to better focus on our goal of being fully missional in every church, every ministry, every community, and every corner of the world because we dialogued, prayed together, and centered ourselves on the love and hope of Jesus Christ even as we face uncertainty.
As servant leaders, our bishops live and serve alongside you with a passion for unity that does not sacrifice honesty. As I enter my third year as the resident bishop of the Indiana Conference, I look forward to this opportunity to meet with each of you (laity and clergy) while we engage in conversation, prayer, worship, and close our time together with Holy Communion. As we come to the table, may we remember the God we serve, Christ who died for us, and the world we are still called to reach.
What are other ways I can support this discussion as we seek a way forward?
I invite you to pray every day for our delegation and all those who will gather this February in St. Louis. Each day, I encourage you to pray individually, as well as corporately, from 2:23 – 2:26 p.m. As we enter into the presence of God may we seek the will of God for our Church, our delegation, and the people God has called us to reach.
As we go forward this day may we remember that we are one Church in many places glocally (globally and locally). Let’s stay connected, remain prayerful, and in all things, be missional.
To learn more about the Commission on the Way Forward and their work in finding that there is more that unites us than divides us, please click here to watch a recent video from members. The video features Patricia Miller, Executive Director of the Confessing Movement, and Matt Berryman, former Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, as they discuss their friendship and their experiences serving together on the Commission.
Julius C. Trimble
Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church