General Conference: A Dialogue

By Rev. Scott Wilson*

‘In the Bible, we are not called to always agree – but we are called always to love, for the ground at the foot of the cross is level ground. It is why Jesus invites everyone to the communion table and why everyone is welcome and invited to ours.  It is also why I believe you pay me and trust me to be a pastor to every person who walks through our church doors – regardless of creed, gender, color, orientation, Republican, Democrat or New York Yankee fan. That has been my ethic before and after every General Conference and throughout my ministry.  And regardless of how things shake out in Portland, it will continue to be my ethic as your pastor, as it’s the only way I know how to do my calling and our calling as the church.’

This is a sampling of what I shared with the more-than-two-dozen people who attended Dialogue and Dessert about General Conference at Mayfield Church on March 9.

I decided on the gathering as a follow-up to our church-wide participation in the 24-hour prayer vigil for General Conference on Sunday, Feb. 21, as Bishop Hopkins had requested.

Rev. Jan Fillmore and I began the 90-minute General Conference dialogue with prayer, after which I offered some ground-rules for dialoguing and holy conferencing. Jan and I then reviewed some basic polity concerning our connectional structure, some of our church systems, and some basics about General Conference.  There was Q & A throughout.

We then presented information pertaining to five issues facing our United Methodist Church @ General Conference:

  • the tenure of bishops,
  • possible earlier ordination of pastors,
  • possible ending of guaranteed pastoral appointments,
  • possible changes to annual conference structuring,
  • possible reconsideration by our UMC regarding our understanding of matters related to sexuality.

While there was Q & A pertaining to each of the items, a majority was given to respectful dialogue regarding the issues and matters pertaining to sexuality.

We looked at Old Testament and New Testament Scriptures relating to sexuality – including heterosexual and same sex passages – and we also considered texts pertaining to the sacred worth of all persons, and God’s distinctive and unconditional love.

I chose to utilize Jorge Acevedo’s acronym “COGPOW – Child of God Person of Worth” – as a wonderful starting and ending point for the church. In addition, we considered Wesley’s quadrilateral, viewed last summer’s Supreme Court ruling, and considered our calling as the church – to save lives, and not just souls.

We concluded our 90 minutes of conversation by joining hands and sharing prayers – asking for God’s blessing and Spirit to anoint General Conference sessions, delegates, bishops and our local churches.

General Conference is May 10-20 in Portland, OR.

*Rev. Scott Wilson is in his 7th year as senior pastor at Mayfield Church.