Day Two of the NE UMC Conference

Day two.

This morning at breakfast, I sat with with a table of elderly African Americans. They have talked to me about how this LGBTQ+ struggle in the church, how the Bible was once used to hold them back from inclusion, and how important they see this time in our church, as we stand on the cusp of a change in the church. I was deeply touched by their passion

8:30

The unease with where we are as a larger church is showing up in the day to day decisions.

Many of the things that are decided in conference each year are generally automatic. These are decisions about the budget, about keeping reserves in place, what those financial reserves can be used for, that sort of thing

But all the uncertainty about the future of the United Methodist Church has people wanting to hedge their bets. As one speaker said, “Why would we give money to a church we might well be leaving in a year or two?”

This is yet another victim of the battle in churches about the LGBTQ+. Money for many ministries is being held back because of uncertainty.

10 AM

A motion has come up that says basically, if an entire conference chooses to succeed from the larger UMC, that they would keep all the property that belongs to that body., It SEEMS to be laying the groundwork for an entire conference succession, and keeping their money.

IT feels like a political groundwork to pull out of the larger UMC. .

The motion was deferred, but it is clear where the conference is heading or WANT’s to do.

The problem was that there was a lack of clarity of what would happen to church property for churches that chose to leave the conference. It was sent back to clear up the legal ambiguities

One of the interesting parts of this conference are the videos. Bishops of other conferences have been video taped and their messages and prayers played back to us. Here’s what’s evident: Our bishop and the NE conference has a powerful reputation for caring for all people, and other Methodists are grateful for our leadership.

One of the undercurrents from last year continues.

In the conference, there are three levels of people, “Ordained” Elders and Deacons, who generally have the larger churches, and who are promised a job, but have to go where the conference sends them. Licensed local pastors, like myself, who are licensed to do work at specific churches, generally the smaller churches, and sometimes more than one of them, and laity (No-clergy).

There are some things that come to vote that only laity can vote on. And some that only ordained clergy can vote on. Licensed pastors are often left out and have no voice on a large percentage of things in the conference. Considering that a growing percent of pastors in the UMC are Licensed, not ordained, but have no voice, has an undercurrent of resentment going on.

I don’t sweat it, but the longer it goes on, the more others do, and the resentment for second class treatment grows. Because there are larger issues going on, I don’t expect it to explode this year, but I almost exploded last year, and I don’t think it will go away. Tuck that away for next year.

A Memorial Communion at mid-day.

What occurs to me is is how ready we humans are to put people down and hold them down. We don’t seem to need much excuse. And I grateful to be part of a faith community in the Northeast that believes there is an overarching reason NOT to put or hold people down – Our God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

The scripture for the sermon by Dr Elian Heath was from Lamentation 3:19-33.

Grief always come in layers, and grief triggers all those layers and griefs from our pasts.

The same physiological changes that fear causes, grief causes.

Our sense of home disappears when we lose someone.

Lamentations is our book of loss.

Written for a people, the Jews, who had lost everything.

Talked of other losses, the church in Charleston and Pulse

And that sense of loss never, ever leaves us

God grieves with us. That is the message

We are not ever alone.

We wonder if God knows our pain

Lamentations is the answer. He does indeed.

Psalm 19

We were mis taught

We learned God was primarily a smiter and punisher.

Not that God was love and mercy which is what Christ was and said

That Christ is love, and we should be too

Jesus said “I make ALL things new”

ALL things.

Love will have the last word.

Not hate

Not shame

Not prejudice

Love.

And then there was communion. One of the things most people don’t realize about pastors is that at times we just need to worship, not lead worship. To be able to worship, sing and share holy communion with about 1500 of my fellow Methodists, is a joy that transcends the politics of the time, if only for a short while.

We ended the service with an a cappella version of “It is Well With My Soul” (My favorite hymn) and “When the Saints go Marching In. We left the room for lunch, dancing.

!:30

The afternoon session begins with singing. In years past there has been more praise music, and very few of the “great hymns of the faith.” This year they seem to be balanced. Good stuff. I love to sing.

Our speaker is one of the District Superintendents today talks of needing to have the courage to proclaim a gospel of loving all people. Behind him, all of the other Superintendents stand behind him in solidarity. Not one sits. That word, ALL, is showing everywhere during this conference. His sermon is a challenge.

He speaks of being torn and tired of this fight. He wants to be able to focus on love, not fighting. He simply wants to love people, particularly those left on the fringes, without fighting over it. It is possible to love all. Not only that, it is what we are called to do. “It is necessary!” He says. Be more curious than defensive. Be willing to listen and love first. Our current crisis he says, can be the catalyst for something new, better, and inclusive.

Why, he asks, are we so afraid? Afraid of the possibility of something new. Of reimagining church. Vermont in particularly was pointed out about creating new ways to do church.

“We stand on the precipice of possibility” – Jill Colley Robinson. Jill has a been chosen to be the next Dean of the Cabinet. (The leading group of the NE Conference District Superintendents.

2:11. Business Meetings start again.

The first part of the business is the closing of churches, a group of several churches across New England that because of the closing of churches of churches, often with a 150 years plus history. There is a sadness for their closing, and a celebration of what they have done in those years of ministry.

Statistics: Vermont UMC attendance declined 6.7% last year. We had the largest percentage decrease in attendance of any New England district.

Only 10% of Vermont churches reported an increase. Vermont had the lowest % of churches that grew last year. As a note, Rupert UMC is one of those churches.

Vermont has 15 Methodists per 1,000 residents, which means we have more Methodists than any other state in the country.

The Budget was discussed. Over all the budget remains the same, but some things went up and some went down. I won’t hit all the details (My eyes glazed over after a while. Math does that to me.) There is some sloppiness in the budget this year and the people at the convention are calling them out on it.

This is unusual, normally the financial people here are on top of the details and can answer the questions right off the top of their heads. But not this year. Looks like it’s going to be messy. We’ve called a break while they huddle and we all figure out how to go forward.

It is also hard because there are a few of the people in the convention who are more about grandstanding for their agendas than listening and working within the system. A lot of half truth flying around.. Charisma over facts. Messy, messy democracy.

4:11

It is chaotic. There has been a motion to post phone the budget till more, better, more detailed information can be developed and having a special conference to pass the budget. It is a messy, loud confusion, a lesson in how people half hear, and half tell. In the end they decided to NOT postpone the budget vote to a special conference.

This means the budget people will have to go back, clarify and change things tonight. And THAT means that after our evening service, we will meet again instead of going back to our rooms. That means we start again about 10:30 tonight.

7PM

We had an ordination service, nearly three hours. But it was a good thing, a worshipful time in the midst of the business of money and conflict and struggle. The bishop gave an impassioned sermon about love for ALL, and a church that loved all. Honestly, I felt like he edged close to announcing a breakaway Methodist church, but I don’t think that is in the works – yet.

I will post the speech when it is available on line.

I was touched by the service. Not just the speech, but the ordination itself. Just as going to a wedding can make you recall your own, the service brought back all the emotion of my own ordination service, one of the most emotional moments of my life, so far. It all rushed over me, again. The calling. The work. The barriers. The study, and the actual moment.

We end up up singing “Ill Fly Away” as the new applicants left the room

Here is where the big battle will be fought, on this resolution, which is summarized here:

Because we in the New England Annual Conference find and model that “while we may not all think alike, we can love alike,” seeing that we hold in common more than would drive us apart;

Because we find that our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ as we mutually strive for

sanctification through grace, and our ministries seeking transformation in and with God’s world, are

stronger because of— not in spite of— our diversity of identity, theology, and practice;

Because the New England Annual Conference has historically championed the fully-inclusive United

Methodist movement, which can be surmised from Wesley’s understanding of the catholic spirit, and

has been expressed through our ancestors in faith who were leaders in Abolition, the Free Pew

movement, Labor Rights, Women’s Rights, and our own 2016 Action of Non-Conformity;

Because the 2019 Called Session of the General Conference enacted legislation that is foreign to the

meaning and purpose of the Methodist movement, was deemed largely unconstitutional, widely

unconscionable, and in our context practically untenable; and

Because the United Methodist Constitution states that the annual conference is the fundamental or

basic body in the Church (see ¶11 and ¶33), and the Discipline states that The UMC “as a

denominational whole is not an entity, nor does it possess legal capacities and attributes. It does not

and cannot hold title to property, nor does it have any officer, agent, employee, office, or location”

(141), and that tangible and intangible property is held in trust by the incorporated (annual) conferences of the denomination (see ¶2501.1);

Therefore, we resolve that the New England Annual Conference commissions and empowers an

immediate Open Spirit Task Force to examine whether and how United Methodists of New England

might align with, create, or form a new church body in the Methodist tradition (independent or in collaborations with others.

We should have gotten to this today, but talk over the budget has put it off. Tomorrow should be interesting.

two.

This morning at breakfast, I sat with with a table of elderly African Americans. They have talked to me about how this LGBTQ+ struggle in the church, how the Bible was once used to hold them back from inclusion, and how important they see this time in our church, as we stand on the cusp of a change in the church. I was deeply touched by their passion

8:30

The unease with where we are as a larger church is showing up in the day to day decisions.

Many of the things that are decided in conference each year are generally automatic. These are decisions about the budget, about keeping reserves in place, what those financial reserves can be used for, that sort of thing

But all the uncertainty about the future of the United Methodist Church has people wanting to hedge their bets. As one speaker said, “Why would we give money to a church we might well be leaving in a year or two?”

This is yet another victim of the battle in churches about the LGBTQ+. Money for many ministries is being held back because of uncertainty.

10 AM

A motion has come up that says basically, if an entire conference chooses to succeed from the larger UMC, that they would keep all the property that belongs to that body., It SEEMS to be laying the groundwork for an entire conference succession, and keeping their money.

IT feels like a political groundwork to pull out of the larger UMC. .

The motion was deferred, but it is clear where the conference is heading or WANT’s to do.

The problem was that there was a lack of clarity of what would happen to church property for churches that chose to leave the conference. It was sent back to clear up the legal ambiguities

One of the interesting parts of this conference are the videos. Bishops of other conferences have been video taped and their messages and prayers played back to us. Here’s what’s evident: Our bishop and the NE conference has a powerful reputation for caring for all people, and other Methodists are grateful for our leadership.

One of the undercurrents from last year continues.

In the conference, there are three levels of people, “Ordained” Elders and Deacons, who generally have the larger churches, and who are promised a job, but have to go where the conference sends them. Licensed local pastors, like myself, who are licensed to do work at specific churches, generally the smaller churches, and sometimes more than one of them, and laity (No-clergy).

There are some things that come to vote that only laity can vote on. And some that only ordained clergy can vote on. Licensed pastors are often left out and have no voice on a large percentage of things in the conference. Considering that a growing percent of pastors in the UMC are Licensed, not ordained, but have no voice, has an undercurrent of resentment going on.

I don’t sweat it, but the longer it goes on, the more others do, and the resentment for second class treatment grows. Because there are larger issues going on, I don’t expect it to explode this year, but I almost exploded last year, and I don’t think it will go away. Tuck that away for next year.

A Memorial Communion at mid-day.

What occurs to me is is how ready we humans are to put people down and hold them down. We don’t seem to need much excuse. And I grateful to be part of a faith community in the Northeast that believes there is an overarching reason NOT to put or hold people down – Our God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

The scripture for the sermon by Dr Elian Heath was from Lamentation 3:19-33.

Grief always come in layers, and grief triggers all those layers and griefs from our pasts.

The same physiological changes that fear causes, grief causes.

Our sense of home disappears when we lose someone.

Lamentations is our book of loss.

Written for a people, the Jews, who had lost everything.

Talked of other losses, the church in Charleston and Pulse

And that sense of loss never, ever leaves us

God grieves with us. That is the message

We are not ever alone.

We wonder if God knows our pain

Lamentations is the answer. He does indeed.

Psalm 19

We were mis taught

We learned God was primarily a smiter and punisher.

Not that God was love and mercy which is what Christ was and said

That Christ is love, and we should be too

Jesus said “I make ALL things new”

ALL things.

Love will have the last word.

Not hate

Not shame

Not prejudice

Love.

And then there was communion. One of the things most people don’t realize about pastors is that at times we just need to worship, not lead worship. To be able to worship, sing and share holy communion with about 1500 of my fellow Methodists, is a joy that transcends the politics of the time, if only for a short while.

We ended the service with an a cappella version of “It is Well With My Soul” (My favorite hymn) and “When the Saints go Marching In. We left the room for lunch, dancing.

!:30

The afternoon session begins with singing. In years past there has been more praise music, and very few of the “great hymns of the faith.” This year they seem to be balanced. Good stuff. I love to sing.

Our speaker is one of the District Superintendents today talks of needing to have the courage to proclaim a gospel of loving all people. Behind him, all of the other Superintendents stand behind him in solidarity. Not one sits. That word, ALL, is showing everywhere during this conference. His sermon is a challenge.

He speaks of being torn and tired of this fight. He wants to be able to focus on love, not fighting. He simply wants to love people, particularly those left on the fringes, without fighting over it. It is possible to love all. Not only that, it is what we are called to do. “It is necessary!” He says. Be more curious than defensive. Be willing to listen and love first. Our current crisis he says, can be the catalyst for something new, better, and inclusive.

Why, he asks, are we so afraid? Afraid of the possibility of something new. Of reimagining church. Vermont in particularly was pointed out about creating new ways to do church.

“We stand on the precipice of possibility” – Jill Colley Robinson. Jill has a been chosen to be the next Dean of the Cabinet. (The leading group of the NE Conference District Superintendents.

2:11. Business Meetings start again.

The first part of the business is the closing of churches, a group of several churches across New England that because of the closing of churches of churches, often with a 150 years plus history. There is a sadness for their closing, and a celebration of what they have done in those years of ministry.

Statistics: Vermont UMC attendance declined 6.7% last year. We had the largest percentage decrease in attendance of any New England district.

Only 10% of Vermont churches reported an increase. Vermont had the lowest % of churches that grew last year. As a note, Rupert UMC is one of those churches.

Vermont has 15 Methodists per 1,000 residents, which means we have more Methodists than any other state in the country.

The Budget was discussed. Over all the budget remains the same, but some things went up and some went down. I won’t hit all the details (My eyes glazed over after a while. Math does that to me.) There is some sloppiness in the budget this year and the people at the convention are calling them out on it.

This is unusual, normally the financial people here are on top of the details and can answer the questions right off the top of their heads. But not this year. Looks like it’s going to be messy. We’ve called a break while they huddle and we all figure out how to go forward.

It is also hard because there are a few of the people in the convention who are more about grandstanding for their agendas than listening and working within the system. A lot of half truth flying around.. Charisma over facts. Messy, messy democracy.

4:11

It is chaotic. There has been a motion to post phone the budget till more, better, more detailed information can be developed and having a special conference to pass the budget. It is a messy, loud confusion, a lesson in how people half hear, and half tell. In the end they decided to NOT postpone the budget vote to a special conference.

This means the budget people will have to go back, clarify and change things tonight. And THAT means that after our evening service, we will meet again instead of going back to our rooms. That means we start again about 10:30 tonight.

7PM

We had an ordination service, nearly three hours. But it was a good thing, a worshipful time in the midst of the business of money and conflict and struggle. The bishop gave an impassioned sermon about love for ALL, and a church that loved all. Honestly, I felt like he edged close to announcing a breakaway Methodist church, but I don’t think that is in the works – yet.

I will post the speech when it is available on line.

I was touched by the service. Not just the speech, but the ordination itself. Just as going to a wedding can make you recall your own, the service brought back all the emotion of my own ordination service, one of the most emotional moments of my life, so far. It all rushed over me, again. The calling. The work. The barriers. The study, and the actual moment.

We end up up singing “Ill Fly Away” as the new applicants left the room. An incredible, unifying ending to worship.

10:00 PM

It is back to work.

It is a frustration. We’re tired and we are discussing the budget. I don’t know if people aren’t listening to each other, or purposely ignoring the answers and questions. People are being stirred up by both sides making statements without hearing each other, or ignoring each other. There are questions about things funded and not funded, about the leadership raises, about what can be used from the reserves

Is it tiredness? Or agendas? I don’t know. There is a lot of confusion small groups challenge and try to change individual line items. I pity our poor Parliamentarian. But in the end, the budget passed, without change.

11PM

Now we are discussing reducing the number of districts from 9-7. This is being to suggested to save money in a church declining in membership and ability to give. This is a passionate discussion. People’s hearts don’t want to have less districts, larger districts. But the numbers don’t work. There is a question about whether or not we have a plan to grow the church as we eliminate jobs.

In the end, the motion to change from 9 to seven. Now we have a couple of small things to vote on, and it’s off to bed.

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