On the anniversary of our convening a year ago, the UMCNext Convening Team would like to thank you again for being a part of this important gathering. Much has happened since then, but first and foremost, we want you to know that we are praying for you, your families, your churches, and everyone impacted by COVID-19. We appreciate that this is a difficult time for people around the globe. We are so grateful for the work that you are doing to care for the sick, feed the hungry, and share the love of Christ with all those in need.
A lot has developed since UMCNext convened one year ago, some of which we could never have imagined:
- In May and June 2019, immediately following the convening of UMCNext, we witnessed a “United Methodist Spring” as UMCNext chapters and other groups helped elect a wave of centrist and progressive General Conference delegates.
- In July 2019, Bishop John Yambasu invited centrist, conservative, and progressive leaders to meet to explore ways to avoid a repeat of the 2019 General Conference. Several UMCNext Convening Team members were among those invited. This initial meeting launched a six-month process that led to the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation.
- #ResistHarm was formed to faithfully resist the anti-LGBTQ Traditional Plan.
- The Christmas Covenant was created by representatives from several Central Conferences.
- In March 2020, in the face of a rapidly spreading global pandemic, church leaders made the difficult decision to postpone the upcoming General Conference until sometime in 2021.
A year ago, many of us were struggling in different ways. Still stunned by the successful passage of the Traditional Plan at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference, we arrived at the UMCNext Convening in Kansas City as a diverse group of United Methodists wounded, profoundly shaken, and anxious about the future of The UMC.
Though we weren’t in full agreement on every point, we prayed, listened, and learned from one another and found common ground in our rejection of the Traditional Plan and our willingness to combat all forms of exclusion. Together, we called for a renewed form of United Methodism committed to witnessing to the love and grace of Christ.
One year ago, we asked all those in attendance at the UMCNext Convening to affirm four basic commitments as the foundation of our work together:
- We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience, and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.
- We commit to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
- We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.
- We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.
These four basic commitments remain the foundation of the work of UMCNext, and form the basis of our future work together as a diverse, global fellowship.
Unfortunately, especially for LGBTQ siblings and allies, General Conference has been delayed and the discriminatory language and other harmful parts of our polity and practice will remain for at least another year. In these difficult times, we continue to support the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation, including the call to hold complaints in abeyance.
Although our work at General Conference is delayed, nothing prevents us from dreaming and beginning to build from the foundational principles we developed a year ago. You may remember during our meeting that you gave input by recording your answers to a number of questions. We continue to use this data. We realize the landscape looks very different in our church and our world today, so we have created a survey for your continued input. We would like to hear from you, and we invite you into this prayerful time of discernment with us. Below is a link to the survey. Thank you again for being part of UMCNext!
What does the future hold for each one of us, for the denomination, for our world? We don’t know, but we know who holds the future.
May God bless you with the peace that passes all understanding.
Ginger Gaines-Cirelli and Junius Dotson