This is it.
As I write this, the Special General Conference of the United Methodist Church will begin its session at the end of this week. Delegates from around the world have already begun their journeys to St. Louis for their deliberations. This appears to be a great watershed moment and the future of the United Methodist Church will be forever changed.
Some of us may even experience fear.
I admit to being concerned. Many of the proposals specifically designed to hold our church together will instead drive the church apart or accelerate its decline.
So, what will we do?
My advice, to those who have asked me, is to relax (a little). There are many proposals that the General Conference will consider but they are not obligated to pass any of them. They might choose one, but it is more likely that they will craft something new from pieces taken from among the various proposals or, at the very least, modify one of those proposals before passing it. There is also a reasonable chance that they won’t pass anything at all and decide that the best way to keep us together, however unhappily, is not to change anything. And finally, there is a chance that some elements of whatever may get “kicked down the road” for debate at the regular General Conference in 2020.
But, assuming that the General Conference passes something, then what?
Still, my advice is that we should still not get excited too quickly.
Some proposed changes may require ratification by the annual conferences and that would take a year before the results were known. But even if a major change were to be passed by the Special General Conference, many of those changes would require Annual Conference action. And, since our Annual Conference doesn’t meet until June, nothing could happen until then, and understanding the difficulty of preparing that legislation for the Annual Conference, there is a fair chance that we wouldn’t take any action as a conference until June of 2020. Other actions that are being proposed would open a window for churches to decide and in most cases, we would have a year or so to choose a path forward.
Are you confused? Of course, you are.
At this point the road ahead looks like a bowl of spaghetti, or a road map of the Los Angeles freeways. That is precisely why I have been advising folks not to get too excited. The path ahead, for now, is confusing and unknown. But, once the General Conference passes something, whether that is next month or in 2020, then the path ahead, and our options, will become much clearer.
And until it does, we will continue to be in ministry to the people around us as Christ Church has for over a hundred years. For now, we should continue to pray for all of the General Conference delegates.
Trust that God knows what is going to happen.
Have faith that God is in control.
Try not to worry.
And fear not.
“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
– Isaiah 41:10
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