Author: Rev. Dr. Mark R. Holland, Executive Director, Mainstream UMC
The initial response to our forum has been tremendous. We have already had over 400 people join and submit nearly 100 comments. Thank you all for the thoughtful, faithful dialogue, it is a breath of fresh air. After the rancorous General Conference, it is very encouraging to see the caliber and tone of comments that you are submitting. This is the Methodism to which God is calling us. This is the Methodism of which I long to be a part.
I am forwarding this brief summary to the leadership team for UMC Next that is meeting at Church of the Resurrection this week. I am also sending them the link where they can read all the comments if they would like.
Summary of Question 1: What are the most important questions for a new Methodism?
The most common question could be summarized, “How new is new?”
“Can we rethink how we are organized?” * “Can we radically rethink our structure?” * “Is this a truly new Methodism?” * “Can we be more nimble?” * Can we create the “least restrictive environment” for local churches? * Can we “Simplify church bureaucracy?” * Can we stop “glorifying rummage sales and chicken dinners” and do the work of the church? (blasphemous!) * “Is the New Methodism just about LGBTQ inclusion or is there a wider vision?” * How can we rethink a “relevant Jesus Movement” in the U.S.? * “How do we make the most effective example?” * “How do we support the work of our General Boards and Agencies?” * “Should we continue to support our General Boards and Agencies?”
The next most common question is about splitting the church.
“Does a split require General Conference action?” * if there is going to be a split, “how do we love and respect one another in the process of separation.” * Can we do a “Connectional Conference Plan type split or a complete division?”
Another key concern can be summarized, “What does this mean for the Global Church?”
“How do we maintain and strengthen or global partnerships”? * “What happens to LGBTQ persons in Central Conferences? * “Should we continue to support mission and ministry abroad?”
Another question is about local churches caught in the middle.
“What happens to a local church whose members are split on this issue?” * “Will rural churches be left behind?” * “Can local churches affiliate with a different annual conference?”
Summary of Question 2: What does “full inclusion” of LGBTQ persons mean to you? Is the inclusion “mandated” or “allowed?” Is there room in the New Methodism for those who are unsure?
From my reading, the most common sentiment seems to follow the Simple Plan model of just removing all restrictive and discriminating language against LGBTQ persons. Beyond that, there is no clear consensus. My interpretation of comments: Mandated = 18; Allowed = 25; Unclear (to me) = 8. Both groups make valid arguments.
For those calling for mandated inclusion, many cited how we mandate inclusion of race and gender. A couple of others expressed concern for young LGBTQ persons in rural, conservative areas who would not hear a word of support.
For those calling for allowed, they shared their story of growing in their acceptance and wanting that space for others. There were also clear caveats that even though there is a willingness to share a church, the discrimination against LGBTQ persons must end. Several also said part of being inclusive is of theological diversity.
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