An invitation from our Bishop:
Invitation to Conversations Around Human Sexuality
“Can we talk?” A famous comedian often used that as her “hook” for drawing folks into her comic routine. The challenge in entering her world is that she never intended to have a conversation that included listening. Members of the United Methodist Church have been talking about issues of human sexuality since 1972. Some would say that we have talked about issues of human sexuality, but we have done very little listening to one another. I believe it is time for members and constituents of the IGRC to talk, and more importantly, to listen to one another regarding issues of human sexuality.
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. The Commission has encouraged United Methodists across our global connection to engage in conversations around issues of human sexuality. The purpose of these conversations is not to debate or change one another or to convince others to “switch sides”, but to engage in active listening and effective hearing of each other’s personal stories in a safe environment.
As we prepare to come together in a spirit of Holy Conversations, we do so acknowledging that faithful United Methodists, are deeply divided biblically and theologically over matters related to human sexuality. We are not all of the same mind and have differing perspectives on how to engage in relationships and ministry with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe it is time to listen and to share with one another.
As part of our conversations we will use a portion of our time together to reflect on four questions that the Council of Bishops has crafted for our denomination. These questions, and our collective responses, will help us to interact with the Council of Bishops and the Commission on a Way Forward. We will also have a brief update and discussion of the current models proposed by the Commission.
Here are the four questions:
* In our diverse and global existence, what is the shared mission/purpose of the Church?
* Is there a proactive way for us to live together in our differences that doesn’t presume that we will resolve our differences? What would it be?
* What might be a form of unity that would empower us living together?
* What is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in relation to our differences?
The conversations that we will have are focused more on our identity, purpose, and mission as United Methodist. As we think about the challenges that our differences around human sexuality present us, we need to discuss how we will remain at the table for the sake of the mission of Christ despite our differences.
My invitation is for you to come to one or more of these gatherings to be intentionally engaged in a conversation about how we can remain united as a denomination around our mission rather than fragmented by our differences. Here are a few ideas that may be helpful in preparing for these conversations:
* Continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us to a way forward.
* Review and be committed to using the Annual Conference Guidelines for Holy Conferencing.
* Read and reflect upon the parable of the Good Samaritan.
* Read the book, The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, by the Arbinger Institute
* Come with a positive attitude and a hope-filled, respectful spirit reflecting the best of the IGRC.
Let us also commit ourselves to providing grace and space towards one another as we create a safe place to listen and to share our varying perspectives. Let us be determined to honor Christ by honoring one another as sisters and brothers. I want to thank you in advance for choosing to join me and others in these vital conversations.
Making a Way Forward Conversations will be held at the following locations. Please register on-line via the IGRC Web-site.
Jan. 20 — Coal City UMC, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Jan. 27 — East Moline Christ UMC, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 3 — Quincy Vermont Street UMC, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 — Mattoon First UMC, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 — Metropolis First UMC, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.