What’s Next? I’m Wondering…

I’ve spent some time at breakfast and waiting for our shuttle bus to take us to the airport to read what other progressive United Methodists are writing about the sad and hurtful events of the United Methodist General Conference this week in St. Louis. When I met one of our Rio Texas leaders and delegates at the airport and asked how she was doing, she acknowledged that she wasn’t in a good place, but also said that she needs time to pray and process what had happened.

We all need time to pray and process, but I don’t want to wait too long to decide how to respond. I appreciated Eric Folkerth’s blog post, which I read on Facebook. You can find it here: wheneftalks.com. Look for the entry titled: Methodism: Post-Mortem and Pre-Vitae. He argues that it is time to start a new denomination.

Maybe.

His analysis leaves little hope for progressives in what is now The United Methodist Church.

I wonder how my own local United Methodist Church will respond. I’m sure we will not change our outreach and love for our dear LGBTQIA members and friends, and our justice ministries. I’m eager to be in worship this Sunday and hear from our pastor and others.

I wonder how the Rio Texas Conference will respond to this event. I’m hoping that our delegation and our Bishop will call us together for sharing, discussion, prayer and worship. There are many in our annual conference who are hurt and discouraged by what has transpired. Perhaps together we can formulate a plan.

I wonder if another possibility is to align with the Western Jurisdiction. In the West, United Methodists have been performing same-sex marriages and ordaining gays and lesbians for many years. I had the opportunity last summer at the Love Everyone Born Conference to meet Bishop Karen Oliveto, a married, lesbian Bishop. If someone as spirit-filled as Bishop Oliveto cannot be a Bishop, no one can be a bishop. Yet, I suspect the UMC as it is now governed will not allow the Western Jurisdiction to long function as the UMC. If Eric Folkerth’s analysis is accurate, the UMC will continue on this destructive path. It will seek to dissolve the Western Jurisdiction and/or force its leadership to leave the denomination. I do not see any grace among the powers that prevailed at the General Conference.

So, where’s the hope? In our Christian brothers and sisters whom we love and who love us. In our local churches, where we find those brothers and sisters. In the ministry and worship and service that we share. In the God of Jesus Christ, who promises resurrection. We are not done. We still love God and love one another. There are so many gifted, beautiful, spirit-filled people among us who can lead us forward. Maybe we will not be United Methodists in the future. But we will be Methodist Christians! Our heritage of justice-loving people will not be denied and we will carry that heritage forward. We will do it together. Christian community is powerful and we have Christian community.

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Day 3: Choosing to Sing

In the midst of pain, I choose love

In the midst of pain, I choose love

In the midst of pain,

Sorrow falling down like rain

I await the sun again,

I choose love, I choose love.

In the midst of war, I choose peace

In the midst of war, I choose peace

In the midst of war,

hate and anger keeping score

I will seek the good once more

I choose peace, I choose peace.

When my world falls down, I will rise

When my world falls down, I will rise

When my world falls down

Explanations can’t be found

I will climb to holy ground

I will rise, I will rise.

The LGBTQI community and its allies gathered at the Love Your Neighbor Coalition ( http://lyncoalition.org/ ) hospitality room at the Holiday Inn in St. Louis this evening to grieve, sing, cry, laugh and love in spite of the actions of the General Conference today.  Mark Miller, the talented composer, led us in singing the song above.  Mark wrote the music, but I apologize that I do not remember who wrote the lyrics.  This song is a faithful response to what happened today at General Conference.

If you have not read yet the news, the General Conference voted down both the One Church Plan and the Simple Plan, and voted to advance the Traditional Church Plan.  Tomorrow the delegates will have the opportunity to vote on the Traditional Church Plan as the Way Forward.  If you are not familiar with this plan, you can find it here:

http://cdnfiles.umc.org/Website_Properties/general-conference/2019/documents/general-conference-2019-adca-english.pdf#page=1&zoom=auto,-51,525

I recommend you read it because it could become the structure and discipline of the United Methodist Church.  It is a plan that reinforces the language in the book of Discipline that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman, refuses to ordain anyone who is homosexual, and will require Bishops, Boards of Ministry and Clergy to sign statements promising to obey the rules of the discipline, or face expulsion from the church.  It is a very conservative, harsh and punitive plan.  It will push all LGBTQI people out of the UMC and will probably push most progressives out.

I confess I did not expect this outcome.  I believed that the One Church Plan would prevail.  Friends told me they were afraid this would happen and I “poo–pooed” them.  No, I said, that’s not possible.  The moderates and centrists and progressives will band together and save the UMC.  I don’t know what happened.  There were not enough votes to save the UMC from the conservative, traditionalist forces.  That group of delegates had more votes than the liberal to moderate group.

And now, nobody knows what is going to happen to the church.

The delegates did vote to send everything to the Judicial Council for review and asked for a Declaratory Judgment regarding the constitutionality of all the petitions that were passed.  Besides all those related to the Traditional Plan, petitions related to pensions and disaffiliation were passed.

I feel like I’m in the dark.  I don’t know what is going to happen next to our church.  It seems like the conservative delegates have the votes to pass the Traditional Plan.  A final vote on the plan will be taken tomorrow.

Our beloved UMC is on the path to doing more harm in the world.  It is a very sad time.

 

 

 

Day 2: Disappointed, but still hopeful

What can I say?  You are probably aware that in voting for the legislation that should receive priority, the General Conference gave preference to the Traditional Plan over the One Church Plan.  The Simple Plan, which for progressives is the best plan, may not even be considered by the conference because it placed so low in the voting.

Many of us were stunned and unsure of what the voting meant, except that it did not go as we had hoped. Here are the results:

The Wespath Plans:  63.56%

The Traditional Plan:  55.57%

Two plans related to Disaffiliation each received, 50% and 49.5%

The One Church Plan, 48.67%

The Simple Plan, 18.68%

What we know for sure:  the Wespath petitions, related to releasing the UMC from future liabilities related to pensions of pastors who terminate their relationships to the church, and requiring churches who exit the denomination to pay their share of pensions for pastors, were passed to be considered by the full conference on Tuesday.

One of the unusual procedures of this General Conference is that the whole conference, ie. all the delegates, will be asked to vote on every petition twice.  They will vote first as the Legislative Committee, and second as the General Conference.  For this Conference, all the delegates serve as the Legislative Committee.  I am speculating, but I think the reasons for this is because of the brief nature of this conference and the specific nature of this conference.   Only petitions related to the purpose of the conference, which is to act on petitions related to the report from the Commission on a Way Forward, are allowed to be presented to the delegates for action.  The Committee on Reference has already determined which petitions are related.  Today, the Conference voted on which of those related petitions had priority and the order in which they would be taken up; i.e. the Wespath petitions (already acted upon by the delegates as the Legislative Committee), the Traditional Plan, the two plans related to disaffiliation and finally the One Church Plan.  I will be surprised if the conference finds the time to consider the Simple Plan.

So what I’ve just described are the technical details of today’s proceedings.  Where’s the color?  What are my feelings?  Is there any hope?

After the vote this afternoon, I wasn’t sure if there was any hope.  The vote on the priorities was not what I had hoped.  And, I didn’t know who to consult to find out what this vote meant.  I reached out to one of our delegates, to our Capitol District Superintendent Teresa Welborn and I asked in a text, “Teresa, this is Nancy Mossman.  Can you tell me if there is a strategy for moving the One Church Plan forward?  I was disappointed that the Traditional Plan received a higher number of priority votes.”

She replied, “I’m by far not the smartest one here — but lots of great people reminding us we’re far from over as far as all the good work before us.  All shall be well.  So grateful for you and humbled by the Austin folks here!”

I was encouraged!

Then, at dinner in a nearby restaurant, I had the opportunity to meet Bishop Grant J. Hagiya of the California-Pacific Conference.  He is a progressive who is working on behalf of LGBTQI persons.  He told us that one strategy is to pass the One Church Plan, wait for the traditionalists to leave the denomination (which they have said they will do if that plan passes) and then pass a Simple Plan.  Also, he said he was on his way to a meeting with African delegates to ask them to not vote for the Traditional Plan.  He explained that about 40 delegates were not voting because they cannot vote for the One Church Plan due to their country’s laws.  Yet, they support LGBTQ inclusion, so they are not voting at all.  This explained to us why about 40 votes were missing in the total vote count.

This experience of General Conference, at which the future of the United Methodist Church is to be determined, is an emotional roller-coaster.  I am so grateful David and I are here.  Please continue to pray for our church, the delegates and our LGBTQI friends who continue to be harmed by our church’s policies.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 of 2019 General Conference

David and I set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. so that we would have enough time to get ready, eat breakfast and make our way to the Convention Center to register and find seats.

The walk is short from our hotel there.  We had no problem at all.

We choose seats as close as possible to our Rio Texas delegation so we could see them and keep them in our minds and hearts (or did we just want to keep tabs on them?  hmmm — you be the judge.).  Either way we wanted to see them, see who was in the delegation and be happy that our delegates were on the floor.  It was fun to spot the people we knew and to see that some of the reserve delegates moved to the tables in the afternoon.  We had wondered if there would be interchanging among them.

This first day of the conference was devoted to prayer, encouragement, song and worship.  And, we were not bored or uninterested.  I had wondered, “How will we sit in the stadium for several hours and not have any ‘action’?”  But, there was amazing action:  a wonderfully diverse musical ensemble played and sang for us all through the day, and the  Bishops led us in prayer, read scripture and encouraged us.  Many of the prayers were very specific.  For example, there was a  prayer time of about 20 minutes devoted solely to our LGBTQ siblings, those in the conference as delegates and observers, and those around the world.  Also, the Philippine delegation led a period of prayer in which they prayed for us and the world, and asked our prayers on behalf of the many people in the Philippines who suffer every day.  There is an alarming rate of poverty there and a high incidence of HIV/AIDS, as well as the threat of terrorism.

On this first day, David and I also participated in an Intercultural Competency Training, offered by the Love Your Neighbor Coalition.  It was offered because the United Methodist Church is a global denomination and people from all over the world are attending.  I met a man from the East Congo and a woman from Mozambique.  The training taught us to recognize our own biases and to be aware that a person’s culture influences how they communicate with others.  And, styles of communication can vary wildly.  Listening without judgment is the most important thing we can do.

I was surprised, as I usually am, by how moved I am by prayer and worship.  I experience God’s presence and am able to acknowledge God’s love in a visceral way during prayer and worship.  That happened again today.  I am always grateful.

We prayed in many fashions and varieties today.  We used centering prayer and for 10 minutes, more than 1,000 people were totally silent.  David and I both remarked on the silence.  How could more than 1,000 people be totally silent?  They were engaged in silent prayer, communing with the Holy Spirit through silence.  “Silence is the first language of God,” one of the Bishops said today.

Another time we were led in the Korean style of prayer called Tongsung Kido.  This is not a silent prayer.  Instead, the whole congregation is invited to speak their prayers out loud, all at the same time.  The sight and sound of the dozens of Bishops, lined up on the podium, holding hands, heads bowed, eyes shut, fervently speaking prayer was another Holy Spirit moment for me.  I loved that I spotted our Bishop, Robert Schnase, and Bishop Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference, praying side by side.

There is no question in my mind that our Bishops want the United Methodist Church to stay united.  The themes of unity and love permeated the prayers.  We were encouraged to forgive one another, to love one another, to be in prayer for one another and to stay together.  I pray this may be so.

Praying for General Conference Delegates

Sunday evening,  St. John’s United Methodist Church in Austin led a beautiful and meaningful prayer service for those gathered to pray for the delegates to our General Conference, meeting Saturday through Tuesday in St. Louis this coming week.

I’m so glad I attended.  In these weeks before the conference, I’ve had a sense of dread as I’ve anticipated going to General Conference.  I had to dig deep to remind myself why I wanted to attend and what I hoped to accomplish.  I was able to formulate my reasons and make my plans, but I wasn’t really looking forward to it.  Now, I’m filled with hope because of the people gathered at St. John’s to pray for this gathering.

There was a real affirmation that no matter what, “it is going to be alright.”  And while all of us gathered are praying for the full inclusion of our LGBTQ friends in the church, there were prayers for all the delegates, no matter their own theology and/or ideology.  We prayed for unity and love among all.

Using Romans 12:2, Rev. Hilary Marchbanks reminded us that we have all been transformed by the grace of God.  We have all had an experience of grace that changed us and turned us toward God.  We are united in this experience.  And, so she prayed, as we all did, that every delegate would be illuminated by God’s

Wisdom      Trust      Leadership      Peace      Patience      Hope      Clarity      Empathy      Openness      Assurance      Change       and       Love

And all of us who will be attending the conference were invited to stand and the congregation laid hands upon us and prayed for us, too.  We were surrounded by love.

St. John’s UMC in Austin is leading in prayer for the delegates of General Conference.  If you would like to participate in a prayer vigil initiated by St. John’s UMC you can sign up online at http://bit.ly/gcprayervigil for a half-hour time to pray wherever you are.

United Methodist Conferencing: 2019 Called Special Conference

A week from today, my husband and I are flying to St. Louis to attend the 2019 Called Special Conference of the United Methodist Church, a global conference, which will consider issues surrounding human sexuality.  We will be observers.  We are not delegates.

Our denomination has been divided by issues related to human sexuality since the early 1970s, becoming more and more rigid as time progressed.  In 2016, the General Conference, which is the rule-making body for the whole church, was once again deeply divided over these issues.  In what some describe as a Holy Spirit moment, the Rev. Mark Holland reports that it was his motion and appeal that caused the legislative body to ask the United Methodist Bishops to lead us in a way forward that would give the church the ability to make disciples in as many places in the world as possible.

The Bishops created a Way Forward Commission.  After almost two years of work, the Commission sent three plans to the Bishops and the majority of the Bishops recommend a plan called The One Church Plan.  There are also two other plans that are still on the table:  The Traditionalist Plan and the Connectional Plan.  Also in the mix, is a plan called The Simple Plan, which was first proposed by the Queer Clergy Caucus and has support from many progressives, LGBTQI people and their allies.

From my limited perspective, it seems that the One Church Plan has the most support.  The Traditionalist Plan is supported by a group called the Wesleyan Covenant Association, which wants to maintain the current language in church law which says, “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  They also want to impose sanctions on any in the denomination who ordain LGBTQ persons or who marry same sex couples.  The One Church plan is a “live and let live” approach that allows everyone to follow their own conscience.  Some progressives in the UMC believe the One Church Plan is not helpful because it will allow discrimination against LGBTQ persons.  Others believe it is the only plan that has a chance of passing because it is a compromise position that creates room for both progressives and traditionalists.

If it were only up to the delegates from the US, the One Church Plan, perhaps even the Simple Plan (it simply removes all discriminating and damaging language from the Book of Discipline), would pass.  However, delegates from much more conservative cultures, such as those from Africa and the Philippines, will be voting also.  I do not know how they will be voting.

There’s a real possibility that nothing will pass and we will not feel like we’ve moved forward at all.

My plan is to attend the Called Special General Conference to observe, listen, pay attention and report on what I see and hear.  I am not particularly qualified to do this, except that I want to, I will do my best to write coherently, and I will do my best to educate myself on the issues and procedures related to these events.  I hope you will join me in this endeavor, offering your own observations and comments.  I firmly believe we all need one another.

Let’s all be in prayer for the General Conference Delegates as they make their way to St. Louis and do the work of the church.

 

 

 

Feet

As I move from middle age into my senior years, I’m becoming more aware and appreciative of my body parts.  A few years ago, I had a bout with plantar fasciaitis (not confident about that spelling).   PF is a painful soreness in the bottom of the foot.  I sought treatment at the podiatrist, who told me that it seems to last a year to 18 months, whether you treat it or not.  I did ask for treatment, which provided relief, but did not make it go away.  Two years later it was completely gone.

That experience made me realize that there may come a time when I will not be able to walk.  I hope not.  I love to walk.  It is my favorite form of exercise.  I particularly like walking in a variety of different spaces and places.  About a year ago I discovered the trail along Lamar Blvd. between 32nd St. and 29th.    It’s almost feels like a wilderness area because it’s below the street and part of it follows a ledge with a cliff on both sides.

Inspiration

Jim Belisle, my cousin-in-law, writes a blog on this site about the adventures  he and his wife, Diana, my first cousin on my mother’s side, are having in their retirement.  My sister-in-law, Emily, who is married to my brother Reed, shared one of their posts on her Facebook page.  It was a story about a non-profit called Gilda’s House.  In the process of reading the story and “liking” it, I ended up with my own blog.  That’s the internet for you. Jim’s writing inspired me.  I thought, if Jim can do this, maybe I can too.  Thank you Jim.  Thank you Emily.  I’m very grateful to call you family.