United Methodist General Conference Postponed…for TWO years?!
“Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”
Remember this classic Oliver Hardy line? Maybe you aren’t old enough to recall, but it seems like an appropriate response to the current administrative and governance shambles of the United Methodist Church. Depending upon the situation at hand, Oliver Hardy could deliver the line with anger, disgust, or helplessness.
If the conversations I’ve had with clergy and laity in the past week are any indication, that range of responses doesn’t begin to fully capture the reaction of UM pastors and church members to the March 3rd decision by the Commission on General Conference to “postpone” the 2020 session again for two more years until sometime in 2024.
This has pushed some of our sisters and brothers beyond disappointment. They are exhausted by the ongoing inability of our denomination to separate. This separation is an inevitable outcome of irreconcilable differences in theology, biblical understanding, and ministry practice. Some of us, understandably, are saying, simply, often broken-heartedly, “I’m done.”
An Encouraging Word
If that is your firm perspective – or you are feeling tempted to just quit and either move to another church nearby or give up on church altogether, there is another option.
Here is a suggestion that might help refuel your faith in the Lord Jesus, reignite your hope for the future of your local church, and renew your personal engagement with the Jesus Mission in your own community. What’s more, you won’t have to wait for General Conference in 2024.
Despite the apt ring of Oliver Hardy’s signature line, we are not in the midst of a comedy; in many ways it is a tragedy. Without question this is a drama still unfolding. Here are three steps I recommend to you:
- Take a breath and get some perspective
The decision to postpone General Conference felt like a gut punch. We were looking forward to a decision on The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation by September of this year. Many of us planned on leaving the discord and dysfunction behind to join the Global Methodist Church this fall. Indeed, the Global Methodist Church will launch on May 1st. The doors will be open for congregations and pastors to join. But there is no looming deadline for you or your congregation to make a decision. The great news is that the doors of the GMC will stay open and welcoming. For some faith-filled, informed perspective on the current situation, check out a recent article by Dr. David Watson of United Theological Seminary.
- Get Inspired, Connected, and Prepared
You are not alone, and you don’t need to travel this path alone. Plan on participating in the Global Gathering of the Wesleyan Covenant Association on Saturday, May 7th. Come to Indianapolis to participate in person or attend at a livestream site nearby. For registration, schedule, livestream sites, and accommodations for in-person attendance in Indy, go to WesleyanCovenant.org. This is guaranteed to reignite your hope for the future of your local church.
- Prayerfully consider the way forward
There are currently four ways congregations can consider transitioning from the UMC to the Global Methodist Church. These are already in the UMC Book of Discipline. They don’t require the Protocol to be adopted. You see, the decision about your future is not with the General Conference – it is with you and your church. Actually, is has been that way all along. Gather the leaders and all those interested to prayerfully consider God’s gifts, calling, and opportunities before you and your congregation. Discern the best path for your local church to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, welcome new believers, refresh seasoned saints, engage the needs of your community, and set your hearts on the future of Christ’s mission to be extended through you and your local church. Contact us as WCAoIL.org or use our website for resources to support your discernment and prayerful strategy development.
This “fine mess we’re in” may turn out to be an important first step for us and our local churches to again own our faith, our future, and our mission. Dare to take the step beyond disappointment to discernment. This unexpected turn of events might be a springboard to new clarity and conviction for you and your church.
May it be so for us all.
By the way, if you would still like a little comic relief, here’s a link to a compilation of Laurel and Hardy “fine messes”.