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Uncertain about the future, but continue to live faithfully

Lay Delegate Doug Palmer, with his Mom, Darcy, at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.
May 19, 2016

Submitted by Doug Palmer
Lay Delegate for Rocky Mountain Conference


The second week of the General Conference has been long, confusing, and filled with uncertainty; and it is this uncertainty that I want to focus on today.

As we progress through our work, there is a feeling of looming uncertainty of the future of the Church. This was especially high early on in the week when rumor leaked on social media that the bishops were discussing a proposal to move toward amicable separation. As you may know, this ended up not being the case, and instead the General Conference was presented with a statement of unity crafted by the bishops on May 17.

However, many sought the wisdom and leadership of our bishops, so the General Conference tasked the Council of Bishops to bring forward a proposal of how the church can move forward around the topic of human sexuality. The plan was then brought forward on May 18 that called for a commission to be formed by the Council of Bishops to consider the proposals around human sexuality, which would then lead to a special session of the General Conference to be held in 2018 or 2019. After a day of much debate and confusion, the General Conference passed the Council of Bishops' plan and it will be implemented.

Before I move forward, I want to clarify how unprecedented these actions are. As we were told by the President of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Ough, the General Conference has never tasked the Council of Bishops to make such a proposal. Additionally, the last time a special session of the UMC was called was in 1970 for the uniting conference between the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches.

Because of this new and turbulent space, there is a lot of uncertainty about the future. Even when we go about our regularly planned work, there is tension that at any moment, a motion could be brought to the floor of the conference that could redirect conversation for hours and change the future of our Church. As Brad put it, "we are always one motion away from chaos."

In this time of uncertainty, I first want to compliment and commend the amazing leadership of our delegation. Our delegates have worked hard to represent the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. We are well-supported by volunteers and reserves to the delegation, who have taken care of us. Despite this uncertainty, this team has done great work.

There is much uncertainty all around us, but as a pastoral mentor of mind once talked about, it is in our times of darkness and uncertainty where the spirit truly begins to move. We are in a new space, a space that makes us feel uncomfortable and concerned. I invite you to sit in this space with us, as we prayerfully consider the future of our Church. Then, no matter what the church looks like come May 20 at 6:30 p.m., I pray that you will unite with us and with leaders from across the denomination to continue to live faithfully into God's mission in the world.

If you will pray with me:
God, Thank you for the beautiful complexity of our life together as a church. Thank you for the diversity of culture and theology that is with us. Thank you for being with us in our darkness. As we move forward, I pray that you guide our leaders and your church to live into the exciting possibilities that you have in store for it. May you work through us or in spite of us to do your will. Amen