Upcoming conference explores impact of schism on mission and ministry
November 02, 2018
Submitted by Donald E. Messer
Co-chair, United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy, Mountain Sky Conference
A church united in mission and ministry raised over $70 million toward eliminating malaria in the world. But what happens to this collaborative outreach if United Methodism splinters and legal battles absorb attention and resources?
Questions like this will permeate the day-long second annual “Toward An Inclusive Church II” conference on Friday, Nov. 16. This event for clergy and laity will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy (UMARC) and the Mountain Sky Conference will sponsor the conference, where United Methodist Bishops and church leaders will provide perspectives on how the church might move towards inclusiveness and diversity rather than diversity and schism.
Keynoting the event will be Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of the New York Area, who started a campaign that raised over 70 million dollars, "Imagine No Malaria.” Bishop Karen P. Oliveto, of the Mountain Sky Area, will challenge the church to overcome tendencies to stigmatization of the LGBTQ community. Bishop Julius Trimble, of the Indiana Area, will emphasize the calling to find a way forward that will enhance the church’s mission and ministry.
The event is scheduled on the eve of an unprecedented special General Conference to be held Feb. 23-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. Eight hundred and sixty-four delegates will come together to decide whether The United Methodist Church should tighten restrictions or remove prohibitions against ordaining and/or performing marriages for gay and lesbian persons. Currently the church seeks to enforce policies based on the premise that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” Some 58% of the delegates are from the United States, 30% from Africa, with the remaining from the Philippines and Europe.
“Focused Conversations” will take place during the Nov. 16 conference, so laity and clergy can converse with their elected delegates and review legislative options on the docket for GC2019. Other workshops will feature persons related to the LGBTQ community tell their stories, explore issues related to racism and sexism, and probe how people in the church can promote civility despite polarized perspectives.
Conference co-chairs, the Revs. Dr. Donald E. Messer and Dr. Harvey C. Martz, indicated this year’s conference is intended to improve understandings of how “the denomination is at a dangerous crossroads in mission and ministry.” They note, “however, it also could be a ‘kairos’ moment, when the Holy Spirit breaks though, affirming a way forward that looks more like the inclusive kingdom of God and beloved community christians proclaim.”