Alaska United Methodist Conference Action on UMC Next Aspirational Commitments

MEMORANDUM


DATE: 02JUN19

TO: MARK HOLLAND

FM: LONNIE BROOKS

CY: ANDY BARTEL

SJ: Alaska United Methodist Conference Action on UMC Next Aspirational Commitments

It was great to get your message about the Great Plains affirmation of the UMC Next aspirational commitments to an inclusive way forward, and I want you to know that almost simultaneously we here in Alaska were making the same commitment yesterday at our annual conference.  Here is a copy of our resolution.  It's important to note that, like Kansas and Nebraska, Alaska is a solidly Republican majority state.  In addition, it is solidly identified by and committed to exploration for and production of oil and natural gas.  So, our commitment to full inclusion of our LGBTQ sisters and brothers is, I think, at least as remarkable as is yours in Great Plains.  I hope you will consider mentioning this in a future newsletter.

Adopted by the Alaska United Methodist Conference on Saturday, 01Jun19 by a margin of 90%:

 

The Alaska United Methodist Conference affirms the four commitments that came forth from the UMC Next meeting at the Kansas City United Methodist Church of the Resurrection on May 20-22:

We believe these commitments are essential to a hope-filled future for the global Methodist movement as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world:

  1. We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in Scripture and informed by tradition, experience, and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness

  2. We commit to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

  3. We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.

  4. We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

Regards,

Lonnie

UM Next : News Update (No. 2)

21 May 2019

My dearest siblings in Jesus Christ,

Greetings once again from Kansas, where we have completed Day Two of UMNext. We began at 8:30am(CDT) this morning with worship. Our text was Ezekiel 37, the Valley of the Dry Bones, where God breathes new life into the seemingly dead.

Our conveners then led us with the questions from the story of Esther and Mordecai, “If not now, when? If not us, who?” to help us enter into this good, holy, and hard work together.

The day was split between three potential paths forward. We spent time in our table groups considering 1) Dissolution - negotiating an amicable division of denominational assets into two or more denominations, 2) Disaffiliation - each local church leaving the denomination with the potential of possibly affiliating with some other organization in the days ahead, and 3) Stay. Build Community. Resist. Reform. - keeping all things the same and continuing to resist the laws and structures of the UMC that constrain us from being in full communion and ministry with LGBTQ+ persons.

As I alluded to yesterday, my table group for discussion is very diverse. I was sitting with (they gave me permission to share with you) Bonnie, a lay woman from Chelmsford MA (my high school alma mater’s arch rival!), Matthew, an out queer clergyman from the Western Jurisdiction, Anna, a Korean-American clergy woman serving in one of our sister conferences of the Greater Northwest episcopal area, Roland, an Indian-American staff member of the General Board of Global Ministries, Mike Slaughter, retired pastor of Ginghamsburg UMC and author of many books like Christmas is not Your Birthday, and finally J.J. (of General Conference fame) a young gay man about to graduate college and definitively called to be a pastor in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition. (My sincerest apologies if I have not described folks in the manner they might describe themselves).

Karen, Tina, Debbie, Carlo, and Charley likewise had their own mixes of people from across the denomination in their table groups of discussion.

At my table, we were not all of one mind of our path forward. After three sessions of considering each option separately, in a fourth session we elected to focus on and discuss the option of Dissolution, allowing the denomination to die and give birth to new iterations of Wesleyan Methodism. (Other table groups had the same opportunity to choose one of these three paths forward for further discussion and feedback in the fourth session).

While it is clear, there are other options forward besides these three, these are the three the convening team decided we would explore here in Kansas City. After visiting with so many people of different persuasions, both here, and in the Alaska Conference, and beyond, I truly believe our best path forward, minimizing fighting, freeing one another to be fully in ministry and mission to the world, we must find a way to gracefully release one another, pray God’s blessings over each other, and go our separate ways, seeking dissolution and forming new denominations for all parties.

And even though this seems clear to me, it is not the same conviction all people have reached. Indeed, there is a significant number of people here who believe we must stay and resist.

I believe tomorrow we will learn that UMNext will not proceed with one option, but that we might continue to explore and pursue multiple avenues simultaneously. I invite you to join me in praying that God would make the path straight and clear for the direction God is calling us, and that God might close the paths not intended for us, and that we, as followers of Jesus, might have the eyes and ears to see and hear God’s leading so that we might follow in the Spirit’s stead, and not the path of our own choosing.

This is my prayer for us St John, not only at this hour, but always: that we might follow in the Spirit’s stead, and not the path of our own preference or choosing. By the grace of God may it be so.

I am committed to walking this path with you St John. I love you, and I thank God that I am with you for just such a time as this.

Tomorrow noon is the end of our time here, and I will be flying home to return to you on late Wednesday. I am looking forward to the days, weeks, and months ahead as we talk, as we wrestle, and as we discern our path forward together.

All grace and peace,

Pastor Andy on behalf of the Alaska delegation

Karen Shields, Tina Racy, Debbie Pintsch, Charley Brower, and Carlo Rapanut

A Note From Pastor Andy.. .

Tue, May 14, 4:36 PM

On Monday evening of this week I went to a presentation by the Anchorage Interfaith Council on maintaining safe sanctuaries. It seems ludicrous that we have to think about protecting our places of worship from active attackers, but the reality of the world today is that we must.

The presenters were from the FBI and US Dept of Homeland Security and they have offered a lot of resources and to come to our churches to help us identify risks and make a plan to minimize the likelihood such an event could happen at St John, and how to respond quickly and effectively if something does happen.

In the weeks ahead Pastor Andy will be working with a small group of individuals to assess our risks and create a plan and training for response. On an upcoming Sunday (to be determined and announced) we will address this in worship as well.

If you are interested in helping to be a part of this team, please contact Pastor Andy.

UM Next : News Update (No. 3)

22 May 2019

My dearest siblings in Jesus Christ,

I am writing to you from the Portland airport, as I await my flight home late tonight. I must tell you, these past three days are not what I expected, and not what I thought I had hoped for, but I leave filled with more hope for our future than I could have anticipated. Our God is good that way, exceeding our expectations, and showing us how small our dreams are compared to the Kingdom work of the Holy Spirit.

We concluded our meetings today at the Church of the Resurrection at noon with four commitments:

  1. We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.

  2. We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.

  3. We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.

  4. We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons.  We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

A truly inclusive church is one that embraces conservatives and progressives and centrists. A truly inclusive church is one that embraces people of all colors, languages, and cultures. A truly inclusive church is one that embraces people of all abilities, orientations, and identities.

St John... You are already that church.

And so we will continue to be who we are, without fear of punishment or repercussion, as we begin this long work of creating a new expression of Wesleyan Methodism that is not punitive, but filled with redeeming, healing, and transforming grace.

I have made myself available in multiple capacities to further the work of dissolution and disaffiliation at the national level as we seek to create a new denomination that will draw the circle of Christ's love, forgiveness, and redemption ever wider, and I invite those of you who are interested in this endeavor to join us in this work.

I am so looking forward to being home with you all again. I cannot thank you enough for the prayers and financial support you all have provided to help make this trip possible. God bless you St John, and may we always seek to be a blessing - to God, and to God's beloved people.

Your fellow disciple,

Pastor Andy

UM Next : News Update (No. 1)

20 May 2019
 

My dearest siblings in Jesus Christ,

Greetings from Leawood Kansas and the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Our delegation of six from Alaska all made it safe and sound for our first day of UMNext, an event to help determine our way forward in light of the decisions made at the Special General Conference in February.

Our day began at 10am with a gathering of delegates from the Western Jurisdiction to apprise one another of the various conversations happening in the annual conferences of the West. It was apparent that the pain of the decisions ran deep, but new life is springing up all over with lots of potential moving forward.

After lunch, we checked in to the event, and the first plenary session began at 2pm. The Rev. Adam Hamilton welcomed us and invited us into conversation as we creatively work together to shape what will come next. The convening team assured us there was “no predetermined plan” in place, but that was the reason for our conference, to gather the voices and witnesses and experiences from United Methodists so that we can work together to create a just and equitable iteration of Methodism for the immediate future. 

This gathering of 600 United Methodists is very diverse with relation to age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and ability. Passion for being welcoming to all persons is shared across the nation. We were divided into 76 table groups, with people from diverse geographic areas of the US, with diverse views on lots of topics, sharing our experiences and perspectives.

Something that has become clear to me is this divide is NOT about conservative vs. liberal. St John is a great illustration of this. There are many of us at St John who would use the term conservative to describe ourselves. There are many of us at St John who would use the term liberal or progressive to describe ourselves, and yet we largely agree, regardless of our political label, that Debbie, and Tina, and Karen and every other individual who self-identifies as LGBTQ+ has not only been welcomed as a part of the St John family, but they have ENRICHED the St John family by their very presence.

By and large, we are a compatabilist congregation. If that's a new term for you, I recommend you read Tom Berlin’s blog post using sugar packets to better understand the various categories of compatabilists/incompatabilists. http://revtomberlin.com/church-vitality/#sthash.LEeA3Oad.dpbs

Day One is complete, and Day Two looms large before us with lots of work to do. We will update you again tomorrow evening of our progress.

Friends, I have a renewed sense of hope that we are making a good way forward for United Methodists of St John and the Alaska Conference, and that God's Holy Spirit is leading the way. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.

Thank you for lifting us in your prayers. We need them and we feel them.

All grace and peace,

Pastor Andy on behalf of the Alaska delegation

Debbie Pintsch, Karen Shields, Tina Racy, Charley Brower, and Carlo Rapanut