Members of the Leadership Forum Task Force: Bill Hatcher, Don Adams, Jim Cowart, Julia Magda, Jeff Barker, Derek McAleer, Kelly Roberson, Allison Lindsey, Nita Crump, Jay Hanson, Brad Brady, Rick Lanford, Doreen Smalls, Bobbi Googe, Anne Bosarge (facilitator), Ben Gosden, Cater Thompson and Warren Plowden.
A Word From Bishop Bryan:
Since January 3 you may have seen headlines announcing that a decision has been reached to split The United Methodist Church. As most have figured out by now, those headlines were wrong and misleading. What’s the truth? The top legislative body of The United Methodist Church, the General Conference, meets every four years. The next session of General Conference is May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, MN. This is the only body that can speak officially for The United Methodist Church. Therefore, petitions and proposals are sent in for consideration. Among those are several plans aimed at ending the impasse over issues related to human sexuality. One of those plans, “A Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation,” has been the cause of the most recent headlines.
This Protocol was worked out by an unofficial group of 16 people, each representing progressive, centrist and traditional groups. The Protocol is one more attempt to resolve our impasse and move us towards a future of vitality in serving Christ. It is a proposal, not a decision. That is where the headlines got it wrong. Nothing has been decided because General Conference has not yet met. The Protocol is being studied in order to understand its implications.
The South Georgia Conference Leadership Forum Task Force met January 13 to discuss the Protocol. Task Force members also watched a one-hour livestream presentation by the group that designed the proposal. We recognize that the Protocol is a mediated compromise among representatives of several groups. After hours of reflection, filled with recognition of pros and cons, the Task Force members concluded that this Protocol is a viable proposal and could be a catalyst to end the impasse and propel us into a vital future.
Therefore, the Task Force is doing scenario planning around each option available to us in the Protocol. This work will be presented to the Leadership Forum in April, along with a recommendation for a process that would enable the South Georgia Conference to write our own story by choosing the option that best enables us to remain Alive Together as an annual conference. The Leadership Forum will decide what to recommend to the annual conference and what to recommend as a timeline to be followed. The goal would be to avoid a hasty decision after General Conference and to provide adequate time for each of our 588 churches to fully participate in the decision-making process through their elected laity and clergy representatives.
In all of its deliberations, the Task Force is mindful of the strong desire to maintain our unity as an annual conference and our global connectional identity with as many other Methodists as possible.
To foster honest communication, please use this link to ask any question for which you would like more information. The Task Force will be working on a list of FAQs in the coming weeks.
The work of the Leadership Forum Task Force is not being done in isolation. The Task Force is collaborating with other groups: the laity and clergy delegates to General Conference, the Cabinet, and the Compass Group. Plans also include opportunities for communication with laity and clergy through video updates and in-person presentations.
Even as this work proceeds, I ask us all to remember that what each community in South Georgia really needs is an enthusiastic, hope-filled, disciple-making Methodist church. Let’s write our own story in 2020. Will it be a story of radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service, and extravagant generosity? Help your members discover their spiritual gifts, bless them, and then unleash them in your community as well as in the congregation.
As I have said for nearly four years, we are the only ones who can define what “together” means for South Georgia. We get to choose our own future. God has placed us here to spread the blessings of John Wesley and the Methodist movement. No denominational conference can do that for us. So the question is: what story is the Holy Spirit nudging us to write in 2020?
During the 2019 Annual Conference session, Bishop Bryan shared that the Leadership Forum Task Force would continue to meet throughout this year to provide updates to the Conference concerning the conversations going on in The United Methodist Church as preparations are made for General Conference 2020 in May.
One possibility mentioned was a conference-wide gathering in November. To be good stewards of everyone’s time, Bishop Bryan and the Task Force have decided to release their update report in the form of a two-part video: Part 1 | Part 2.
Last week, during the Leadership Forum’s fall meeting, the Task Force shared these videos with the full membership of the Leadership Forum. As the Task Force continues to meet, they will discern if a live stream event or an in-person, conference-wide meeting is warranted. At this point, the videos will serve to outline the work of the Task Force in considering all that is before the Conference.
“I hope that you will find these videos to be helpful as we stay calm, stay connected, and stay Alive Together in Witness,” Bishop Bryan said. “I am thankful to you for watching them and thankful to the Leadership Forum and the Task Force for helping us navigate the days and months ahead as we look towards General Conference 2020.”
General Conference Update (Nov. 2019) - Part 1 | Read transcript
General Conference Update (Nov. 2019) - Part 2 | Read transcript
How are we in South Georgia going to keep track of all the hopeful conversations going on around the global United Methodist connection? The Leadership Forum Task Force, that’s how!
When I formed this group last year we named it the “Foundations for the Future of South Georgia Task Force.” The members of the group represent the boards and agencies of our conference that oversee property matters, money, pensions and benefits, laity, the Cabinet, the General Conference delegation … lots of major entities.
Being at the table together gave South Georgia a working group that did scenario planning around each of the plans that we knew would be voted on at General Conference 2019. This Task Force designed and led the annual conference information session that was held immediately after General Conference 2019. And then the Leadership Forum asked this Task Force to continue for a year to keep the Conference updated on developments related to General Conference 2020, which will be held May 5-15 in Minneapolis.
Since those involved have agreed to continue serving, I can now refer to this as the Leadership Forum Task Force. They will report to the Leadership Forum and to the annual conference from time to time. Here are some takeaways from our most recent Leadership Forum Task Force meeting (Aug. 22):
Question: A year from now, if the task force has done a fantastic job, what will it have done?
Answer: It will have inspired CONFIDENCE in South Georgia through COMMUNICATION and CURIOSITY.
Question: What do we mean by confidence?
Answer: 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.
Communication is an umbrella term for how we talk about the future of the South Georgia Conference and The UMC leading up to General Conference 2020 and beyond; the goal is to promote relationships of trust within South Georgia by providing clarity and a sense of connectedness. To keep the conference up to date on conversations going on around The UMC, the Task Force will communicate via the conference website, social media, video reports, specific outreach to laity and clergy, and by encouraging informed conversations within already established relational groups (such as cluster groups).
Curiosity is an umbrella term for helping local churches ask key questions of whatever comes out of GC2020; the goal is to unite us in a process designed for us to discern a future in which we can continue to be Alive Together in Christ in South Georgia.
Through scenario planning, the Task Force will identify key questions for local churches to use in reflecting on whatever comes from GC2020. This “key questions process” will be made available to all local churches so that all may be involved in discerning God’s future for us.
The Task Force’s next meeting is Sept. 30 and will be devoted to developing key questions about various plans that we know about that were filed by the Sept. 18 GC2020 submission deadline.
Please let the Task Force members know how grateful you are for their service. And please join them daily in praying the Task Force prayer:
O God, by whom we are guided in judgment, and who raises up for us light in the
darkness: Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what you
would have us to do; that your Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and
in your straight path we may not stumble; through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Stay Calm. Stay Connected. Stay the Course.
Alive Together in Witness,
R. Lawson Bryan