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As we journey toward General Conference, Stay Calm, Stay Connected, Stay the Course

September 04, 2018

Attendance at the Way Forward district meetings has been outstanding. With nearly 500 people present in Columbus, nearly 400 in Statesboro, and around 350 in Valdosta, the interest of our church members and pastors is certainly evident. Those present at each gathering have inspired me with their sincere devotion, their deep love for the Church, and their passionate desire to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

The three remaining Way Forward meetings will be held in Hinesville (9/6), Macon (9/9), and Albany (9/18). I look forward to these opportunities to continue connecting with so many laity and clergy across South Georgia. The strong attendance we are having demonstrates that we are indeed Alive Together in Christ. 

In these district meetings we are watching a 10-minute video that summarizes the three plans offered by the Commission on a Way Forward. Thanks to Debbie Hudgens for narrating the video! Debbie, a member of White Bluff UMC in Savannah, is well-known and highly respected for her leadership in our annual conference. Following the video, the bulk of the meeting time is spent answering questions of interest to those present. The goal is to enable our laity and clergy to give non-anxious leadership by equipping them with clarity about the three plans and knowledge of the process that is unfolding.

I have been reminding us all of the 4-Ls: loving leads to listening; listening leads to learning; and learning shows us how to lead in a given situation. The order is important. Effective leadership starts with genuinely loving God and our neighbor. That first step must not be overlooked. It is the deep love for God and for others that causes to want to truly listen to one another. And it is through such compassionate listening that we are able to learn what we need to know to gain true understanding of each other. This results in a leadership style that is effective because it grows out of loving, listening, and learning. Each of us can practice the four Ls in our daily interaction with others: Loving, Listening, Learning, Leading.

In addition to the Way Forward district meetings, the members of our General Conference delegation are sponsoring “listening posts” – a time of informal conversation where you can give voice to any concerns you have. The delegation invites you to attend one of the “listening post” sessions from 10 a.m. until noon on the following days: October 11 at The Chapel in Brunswick;  October 17 at Centenary UMC in Macon;  and October 25 at FUMC Cordele. Feedback may also be shared with the delegation through the online input form at www.sgumc.com/delegation2019.

Two other items are of special interest in the Way Forward conversation. First, the Council of Bishops has asked the Judicial Council to issue a declaratory decision indicating any part of the three plans that is considered unconstitutional. It is important to know this before the special called session of General Conference, Feb. 23-26, 2019. The Judicial Council meets in October and we hope to have their ruling by the end of that month. Second, in November the 100 or so petitions that have been sent in will also be published. This will allow us to study them before General Conference. I believe these petitions will address many of the specific concerns raised by church members in our district meetings.

The wonderful spirit in our district meetings leads me to reiterate the refrain that has been guiding us as we journey toward General Conference: Stay Calm. Stay Connected. Stay the Course. 

Alive Together in the World,
R. Lawson Bryan

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