July 2019 Connection

Reflections on Annual Conference
From Reverend Laurie Del Pino: Every year I so look forward to meeting and greeting old and new friends from the Michigan UMC many of whom I’ve known since 2005.  Nurturing lifelong friendships in the Michigan church body has been a joy – there is something sacred about journeying alongside those in ministry.
Bishop Bard right out of the gate stated that if the church was going to split, let it be known that he will be on the side of inclusivity.  This statement lifted a weight off of the body of the church that had been felt discouraged by the traditional vote at General Conference.
Immediately afterwards, two individuals, one of whom is in a committed relationship with a same gender person and the other who is a professed homosexual were ordained in front of the entire assembled conference.  This goes against the traditional vote made at General Conference, but the action went ahead nonetheless.  In a straw, non-binding vote, it was determined that 69% of the body assembled were on the side of inclusivity and 31% on the traditional side.  This is a reflection of the will of the UMC Michigan Conference.
The sense was one of relief that many felt the same and were willing to stand against the global church decision.  It seemed to me the Holy Spirit was very present in the body, it’s worship, it’s speakers and actions.
On a lighter note, I entered a Grand Traverse photo contest and won the prize for the May entry – the prize is a meal for two at a lovely restaurant at the resort!  I took a photo of the sunset right outside of our room on the first floor of the resort.  All in all, a memorable conference this year!
From Tom & Carol Cerny: It was a privilege to represent GBUMC as Lay Members to the 2019 Michigan Annual Conference at the Grand Traverse Resort in Acme. It was an amazing feeling to worship, sing and pray with 2,000 Methodists! The spirit of God was very present those four days. These are challenging and exciting times. The United Methodist Church is a worldwide denomination that is committed to “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the world” with deep historical roots in mission and outreach to a hurting world.
The 2019 Michigan Annual Conference was a wonderful celebration of what makes Methodism so effective—committed Christians worshiping, praying and working together on difficult topics, all trying to be true to the teachings of our Lord as we understand them. It followed the 2019 Special General Conference in February when actions were taken by the global church that have caused confusion and great anxiety on the part of many deeply committed Methodists, especially those in North America.
We are truly blessed to have Bishop David Bard leading our Annual Conference in these challenging times. The conversations were respectful and those who listened (which we think were most who attended) learned a great deal and have a much better appreciation of the issues faced by those who are committed to inclusion of our LGBTQIA sisters and brothers who have felt marginalized and at times abandoned, as well as those whose experience and understanding is more “traditional”. People felt safe and secure when expressing their heartfelt beliefs and hopes for the future.
A non-binding “straw vote” was taken to help all get a sense of where the clergy and laity members who were at this Annual Conference stand on the question of inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the life and ministries of the church. Bishop Bard acknowledged the importance of caring for everyone’s feelings when he said “Jesus of the parables cares as much about the 70% as the 30%.” 70% affirmed the desire to be an inclusive church, while 30% endorsed the “traditional” approach that was approved at the 2019 Special General Conference.
What the structure of the United Methodist Church will become is a work in progress with many unknowns that will be known in God’s time. As noted in the Conference electronic newsletter, a Resolution to be presented to the 2020 General Conference was approved by 70% to 30% vote, that the Michigan AC recommends “creation of a Central Conference encompassing North America”. If created, the Central Conference would allow more contextualized ministry and mission not allowed by the American church under the current structure.
As Bishop Bard indicated several times—this is a time for discernment and prayer. As a local church it is important for us to engage in dialogue, pray and learn as much as we can so we will be able to make decisions when and if needed. We encourage everyone to keep informed of what is happening in the larger church, to open our hearts and minds to God’s nudging, to engage in open, respectful dialogue, and to keep focused on what we United Methodists do best, reaching out to help others in this hurting world. Think about the Hymn of Promise…
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