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An Update on the Leadership Forum Task Force Meeting - Writing our own story in 2020

1/15/2020

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?  

Helpful Links

**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.

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