We were reminded of the beauty that exists in our beloved community, as well as the strength of our United Methodist connection as we came together, virtually, as an Annual Conference to discuss ways in which we can engage in fruitful conversation, allowing the time and space for each of us to expand our understanding, while strengthening the covenant with God and one another.
Our first 2018 Lenten study conversation modeled respect and open dialogue reflective of our Christian Conferencing guidelines as the panelists shared thoughts and insights regarding the importance of the wide array of topics, thoughts for consideration, people, as well as challenges to remember in our dialogues around human sexuality and the Church.
The live-streamed conversation held on the Indiana Conference Facebook page, and moderated by Conference Communications Director, Skyler Nimmons, included guest panelists; Bishop Julius C. Trimble, resident bishop of the Indiana Conference; Dr. Kim Reisman, Executive Director of World Methodist Evangelism; Bishop Mike Coyner (retired), former resident bishop of Indiana; Mrs. Doris Clark, Conference Lay Leader; and Dr. Adolf Hansen, Theologian-in-Residence at St. Luke’s UMC and author of “Is it Time?”
Hansen’s book is being used as a guide and text to help shape the way we approach and navigate critical conversations in the Church.
Bishop Trimble shared his desire for these important conversations to happen all across the state of Indiana and the world throughout the Lenten season.
“Sometimes we would rather define people by what their position is as opposed to what our interests are.” He encouraged viewers to ask questions such as “what are you passionate about in ministry?” and “what makes your heart sing?” first. Knowing that, as we move into deeper and, at times, highly-debated discussions it is important that we first begin to listen and understand the person God is calling each individual to be so that when we engage our neighbors in deeper discussions, we can remain in relationship even when views may not agree.
“The important thing about engaging in conversation is recognizing that minds may not change but we are better when we hear each other,” said Dr. Reisman. She followed, “we can still be in deep meaningful ministry for Jesus Christ” Mrs. Clark also echoed Reisman’s sentiment in saying that we need to understand the difference between dialogue and debate. She stated that the goal of these conversations is not to “win” but instead to hear each other not only with our eyes but our hearts as well.
Dr. Hansen, sharing from his book, relayed a few questions for us to ponder, one of which, “Does God want us to see that nothing, not even important debates, about this [human sexuality] issue, should displace our call to be focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?”
“What does God want us to learn from this whole discussion,” asked Bishop Coyner. A question he has often wrestled with throughout his time serving in The United Methodist Church. He shared that the discussion has to be more than an attempt at “who’s right and who’s wrong” but rather recognizing that, perhaps, through creating these spaces we are able to see it as a time of learning from God to be open and honest with each other.
A high quality or “studio version" video recap of the conversation is available for viewing and sharing here.
To learn more about upcoming opportunities for conversation both online and through the districts, click here.