In the article I posted immediately following General Conference, I stated that I had questions about the legislative process, the vote taken and what happens next. I can say that the same is true of our Annual Conference. I have questions about what we do next. I attended Bishop Bard’s listening session, which I thought would be a time of addressing some of the questions we all have. Most of those who spoke during the session did not have a question. Each person spoke of their fears, concerns and woundedness.
I wish to continue the conversation within the Midwest District. Over the next few months, there will be a few Holy Conferencing sessions. Below are the guidelines from UMC Discipleship Ministries ⇒ https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/guidelines-for-holy-conferencing-what-god-expects-of-us
Guidelines for Holy Conferencing: What God Expects of Us
Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.
As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
Listen patiently before formulating responses.
Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions. Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking. This is especially important when you disagree with a position.
Avoid using inflammatory words, derogatory names, or an excited and angry voice.
Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups. Make your point with specific evidence and examples.
Make use of facilitators and mediators.
Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God — not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.
We believe Christians can discuss important issues without the acrimonious debate and parliamentary maneuvering that can divide a group into contending factions. We see too many examples of that in secular society. We believe the Holy Spirit leads in all things, especially as we make decisions. We want to avoid making decisions in a fashion that leaves some feeling like winners and others like losers.
We can change the world through honest conversation on matters about which we are passionate.
We offer our thanks to the participants at The Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly, sponsored by the Division on Ministries with Young People, through the Discipleship Ministries, held in January 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa, for inspiring the framework of these guidelines. They adopted similar guidelines for Christian Conferencing at the convocation. This work is based on guidelines for “Holy Conferencing” that emerged from the United Methodist “Dialogue on Theological Diversity” in February 1998.
Currently, the District Office is working to schedule these Holy Conferencing sessions throughout our area. An announcement with dates and times of the sessions will be shared in the near future. I ask you to keep one another in prayer during this time. I understand that we are divided on this issue, but I ask that we treat one another with respect, grace and compassion, and refrain from language that is hurtful, condescending and divisive.
May God continue to be with us each day. And Amen.