Conference leaders meet to discuss future of church, work of Commission

12/18/2017

Watch Bishop Bryan and Rev. Jorge Acevedo discuss what it means to be a missional church in a time of uncertainty in our denomination.

Various clergy groups and lay leaders met with Bishop Lawson Bryan and Rev. Jorge Acevedo December 5 and Dec. 6 at Epworth By The Sea on St. Simons Island to talk about the work of the Commission on a Way Forward and what the journey ahead looks like for The United Methodist Church. 

Rev. Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church in the Florida Conference and a member of the Commission on a Way Forward, was invited to the South Georgia Conference by Bishop Bryan and Rev. Jay Hanson and Rev. Jim Cowart, members of the South Georgia delegation, to share his thoughts about the work of the commission. More importantly, however, he discussed with those gathered what it means to be a missional church.

During his presentation, Rev. Acevedo explained the three sketches the Commission has shared with the Council of Bishops, detailing one that focuses on accountability, another that focuses on contextualization, and a third focused on a unified core. He emphasized that the Commission is a “short-term task team with no authority,” and that the sketches will likely be adjusted and amended before becoming more concrete models. 

While solving the issue of LGBTQ inclusion is a critical topic in the Church, it is not going to make The United Methodist Church more mission-minded, Rev. Acevedo said.

“We have to be a missional church,” he said. “The burning issue at my church is how do we reach more people for Christ?

“If we disconnect this work from congregational vitality, we’re sunk.”

District lay leaders, pastors of the top 25 highest worship attendance churches, young clergy, African-American pastors, Hispanic pastors, Korean pastors, the delegation, and the conference Leadership Forum came together in three separate meetings for discussion and interaction. Many said they appreciated the opportunity for conversation and dialogue.

“I was encouraged by the willingness in our leadership to engage this conversation from a missional standpoint and not just a practical understanding of how things will look after General Conference,” said Rev. Aimee Baxter, a South Georgia Conference deacon.

Rev. Baxter said conversations like these encourage and equip leaders to have hard conversations with congregations and to engage in open and respectful dialogue. 

“It also reminds us that we have a bigger mission, and that is to make disciples and be Christ to the world,” she said. “We cannot forget to keep the main thing the main thing. We cannot cower to the fear that the rest of the world is constantly throwing at us. We have to continue to tell the story of love and grace to the world. It’s who we are as Methodists.”

These conversations will continue in 2018, at the conference, district, and local church level. Rev. Acevedo praised the South Georgia Conference for being one of the first conferences to have such discussions.

“Because we’ve been in this 40-year stalemate around human sexuality and LGBTQ inclusion there’s a huge amount of distrust,” Rev. Acevedo said. “I think just being able to have frank discussions, honest discussions, discussions that are not coercive but honest and genuine, is such a breath of fresh air in a stalemate. This allows for conversation to happen. South Georgia is really getting out in front of it and being proactive having this discussion, and ought to be commended for it.” 

The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church. 

For updates on the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, visit www.sgaumc.org/wayforward

Click here to view a timeline for the Way Forward conversation in South Georgia.

South Georgia Prays
The denomination-wide 'Praying Our Way Forward' initiative launched on New Year’s Day 2017 with 75 weeks of focused prayer for The United Methodist Church. Each annual conference will take one week to have intentional prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward.The South Georgia Conference's week of prayer is January 14-21, 2018.

Thanks to the deacons of our annual conference, led by Rev. Meg Procopio, resources are available to guide our week of prayer. Click here to download.

Read more here