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A summer of hopeful conversations

August 05, 2019
FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN


In addition to the high heat, summer is also a time for a break from school, sports of all kinds, and travel to the beach or other favorite vacation spots. This year we United Methodists can add “conversation” to our list of summer activities.

Recent conversations among United Methodists stem from the special General Conference held last February. That conference passed the Traditional Plan, which retains current language in The Book of Discipline concerning ordination and marriage of self-avowed practicing homosexuals. This summer’s conversations are happening all across The United Methodist Church among those who favored the Traditional Plan and those who favored other plans. These conversations are aimed at finding a way for United Methodists of differing opinions to have enough separation that they can practice ministry as they feel called to do so while at the same time allowing for as much collaboration as possible (in matters such as disaster response, missionary support, and higher education/ministry).

Equally important, all United Methodists have the opportunity to be part of the larger conversation by submitting a petition to General Conference 2020, set for May 5-15 in Minneapolis (see below for details).

As we said during our 2019 annual conference session, our Leadership Forum Task Force will be monitoring these conversations and petitions in order to provide updates to the South Georgia Conference. 

In the meantime, I want to offer an outline of the broader conversations of which I am aware, though I know there are many more conversations happening across the denomination.
  • The Jones/Bard Proposal: This is a conversation between one who aligns best with the Traditional Plan (Bishop Scott Jones) and one who aligns best with the One Church Plan (Bishop David Bard). Click here to read the Jones/Bard Proposal.
  • Kansas City Meeting: This was a conversation among centrists and progressives from around The UMC. I have heard there may be a follow-up meeting in September.
  • Chicago Meeting: Two African bishops and one European bishop convened this meeting to have conversation between five traditionalists, five centrists, and five progressives. They are working together in the hope of providing a helpful plan by the filing deadline of September 18. 
  • Nairobi meeting: I have heard that the General Conference delegates in Africa are planning to meet in August for conversation about their role in the future of The United Methodist Church.
  • Atlanta meeting: Rev. Jim Cowart, clergy leader of our South Georgia delegation, invited delegation heads from the annual conferences in the Southeastern Jurisdiction to meet for conversations about our future.
  • Individual United Methodists are also offering thoughtful input for our collective discernment. These, of course, are their opinions but I want you to see a sampling of conversations going on. Here is a link to a blog post by our own Rev. Ben Gosden, pastor of Trinity UMC in Savannah, in which he offers seven suggestions for thinking about our future. Here is a link to a blog by Rev. Chris Ritter, a pastor in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and a delegate to the 2019 special General Conference, that provides information on what’s going on in areas across the denomination.
I view these conversations as a hopeful sign that many dedicated United Methodists are willing to work together toward a General Conference that enables cooperation without compromise. I particularly appreciate the grassroots approach, for I believe it holds the best promise for a useful outcome. You will be hearing more about these and other conversations once they begin to produce specific proposals. 

Here’s a statement I hope that, together, we will embrace in the coming year:

In the South Georgia Conference, we live in the CONFIDENCE, based on our experience since 1736, that God’s purpose is going to be fulfilled and is even now unfolding among us SO THAT we commit ourselves to remain connected to each other to give space for God to move in us and through us.

I encourage you to click on the links above and read about some of the conversations being had across the denomination. We are also thankful for the conversations being had in our congregations and across our conference. Dialogue is healthy, and the more we listen and talk, the more we will understand and value one another.

In addition, I have appreciated the feedback I received from clergy and laity over the past year when I have asked for your input. This feedback is helpful to me, and I use it to help guide future conversations. I want to do the same thing as we approach the 2020 General Conference. Here is a link to communicate with me any thoughts you have at this point. Also, the Leadership Forum Task Force, the group I have tasked with discerning ways the conference might respond to decisions made at General Conference, will meet in August and will be sharing additional ways we will continue to come together to talk about the future. 

Let’s keep the conversation going! 

Alive Together in Witness,
R. Lawson Bryan

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Petitions to General Conference 2020

Petitions for consideration by the 2020 General Conference may be submitted to the Petitions Secretary now through September 18, 2019.

According to church law, “Any organization, clergy member, or lay member of The United Methodist Church may petition the General Conference...”.

Detailed instructions for submitting a petition are available on the General Conference website at umc.org/gcpetition. Petitions must be typed and may be submitted through the General Conference website, by postal mail or fax, or via email to petitionsecretary@umcgc.org.

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