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