“We are the church of today,” Youth Tell EOC Delegates

By Rick Wolcott*

A Special Session of General Conference has been called for February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. Its purpose is to act on a report by the Council of Bishops based on proposals from the Commission on a Way Forward.  The Commission was created by action of General Conference 2016 and was tasked with completely examining, and possibly revising, every paragraph of The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church concerning human sexuality, and exploring options to help maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.

Per ¶14 of The Book of Discipline, “Such special session of the General Conference shall be composed of the delegates to the preceding General Conference or their lawful successors.”

“Last year Youth Annual Conference passed a resolution that went to Annual Conference asking for a new delegation that would have better representation of young people,” said Kaye Wolfinger, EOC director of Young People’s Ministries.  “That was denied at Annual Conference but the solution was that conversations could be had with CCYM so their voices could still be heard and understood.”

Members of CCYM conversed and fellowshipped with EOC delegates during lunch at Doylestown UMC (Canal District) on February 24.

Allen Laferty, a lay member of Crestline First UMC (Mid-Ohio District) whom delegates elected to be head of the EOC delegation, said the youth at his table wanted to know why General Conference hadn’t previously made a decision in regards to the Church’s position on human sexuality.

“They felt it was an easy decision to be made and could be carried out rather quickly,” Laferty said.  “I tried to explain that it wasn’t that simple, that The United Methodist Church is worldwide, and there are many different thoughts about what the UMC should look like.”

“We want our opinions to be heard but we also want to hear the views of members of the delegation so that we can have a healthy dialogue together,” said CCYM President Connor Prusha, a high school senior from Chardon UMC (Western Reserve District).

Connor Prusha and youth speak to delegates

He has found that being a reserve delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016 and being active at the General Church level of the denomination is a benefit to him and to CCYM.

“Because I serve on the Division on Ministries with Young People, I was able to meet with representatives from the Commission on a Way Forward who came and talked with us.  So I was able to share my experience of that with CCYM, which prompted a whole conversation,” Prusha said.

“It was great to meet with the youth.  I found those that I visited with to have a very strong grasp on the issues facing us in St. Louis and thoughtful opinions,” said Brian Sheetz, a General Conference delegate and member of Strongsville UMC (North Coast District).  “I was encouraged that they all stressed that the church is strongest if it can remain unified.  It was clear to me that this is something that they have discussed and given great consideration to.”

“The youth asked great questions about the Commission on a Way Forward and the future of The United Methodist Church,” said Susan Achberger a reserve delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016 who attends University Circle UMC (North Coast District).  “I was inspired by their passion to serve.  They love their church and want to see it thrive.”

The lunchtime conversation was not limited to just the special session of General Conference.

“At my table the discussion didn’t focus as much on human sexuality as it did on the authenticity and capable leadership youth bring to all levels of church conversation,” said the Rev. Dan Bryant, senior pastor of Lakewood UMC (North Coast District) and a General Conference 2016 delegate.  “I sensed they are leaps and bounds ahead of so many of us adults in regards to what is means to truly follow Jesus and to build lasting relationships among all people.”

“Though we come from different times and age differences, there is empathy and concern for each generation.  We are one in Christ,” said Betty Wilson, a member of Hammondsville UMC (Ohio Valley District) and a delegate to Jurisdictional Conference 2016.  “The prevalent topic we discussed was about what the church means to us, how we came to be in church, and where we go from here.”

“It’s good to have the voice of youth heard because people forget that we are the church of today.  We’re not just the church of tomorrow,” Prusha said.

“The youth leaders in our Conference are bright, engaged, hungry and thirsty for a church that is relevant and is focused on the main thing, which is sharing the love of Jesus and being engaged in justice in our world.” Bryant said.  “If we, as the adults in the East Ohio Conference can lighten up our control and find avenues to have our youth both learn and teach us, then we will truly have a way forward that is transformative for all.”

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Conversations on a Way Forward Invite Dialogue on the Unity of the Church

By Rick Wolcott*

The Commission on a Way Forward was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination, and possible revision, of every paragraph of The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality, and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.

On September 16, nearly 100 clergy and laity from across the East Ohio Conference participated in a pilot Conversation on a Way Forward that provided opportunities for intentional, meaningful dialogue to discern together how we might strengthen and maintain the unity of The United Methodist Church, and find a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality.

“We are here today because we honor and acknowledge that we all hold different views on how we interpret the scriptures as it relates to human sexuality,” said Bishop Tracy S. Malone.  “We are here acknowledging that we have different ways of how we are engaged in relationships and in ministry with our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer brothers and sisters in Christ, the beloved community, the beloved children of God.  We are called to be the Church.  We are called to be those who embody the love and the grace of God.”

Following worship and time spent together framing the conversation, participants gathered in their assigned small groups for facilitated dialogue.  Each group reflected on the following four questions that were crafted by the Council of Bishops for discussion by United Methodists across the denomination:

  • In our diverse and global existence, what is the shared mission of the Church?
  • Is there a proactive way to live together in our differences that doesn’t presume that we will solve our differences?  If so, what would it be?
  • What might be a form of unity that would empower us living together?
  • What is our witness and what can be our witness to the world in relation to our differences?

All clergy and laity in the East Ohio Conference are invited, and encouraged, to participate in any one of the following  Conversations on a Way Forward:

Mon., Oct. 23, 2017, 6-9 pm
Mentor UMC

Tues., Nov. 14, 2017, 6-9 pm
Western Reserve UMC

Sat., Feb. 3, 2018, 10 am-1 pm
Thoburn UMC

Sun., Feb. 4, 2018, 2-5 pm
Willard First UMC

Mon., Feb. 5, 2018, 6-9 pm
Lakewood UMC

Sat., Mar. 3, 2018, 9 am-12 pm
Church of the Lakes UMC

It is important that you register in advance for the conversation you wish to attend, as each location has a seating capacity for small group sessions.  Register here

*Rick Wolcott is director of Communications for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.

East Ohio Conference Week of Prayer: July 30 to August 5, 2017

Praying Our Way Forward Logo

The United Methodist Church is in the midst of a worldwide time of focused prayer for the mission of The United Methodist Church to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and for the ongoing work of the Commission on a Way Forward.  This season of prayer began in 2016 as the bishops of the church were asked to pledge 15 minutes a day in prayer for the selection and initial work of the Commission on a Way Forward. It continues in 2017 with each annual conference hosting a week of intentional prayer.

We are asking every clergy and lay member of the East Ohio Conference to pray specifically for the work of the Commission beginning Sunday, July 30 and continuing each day through Saturday, August 5, 2017.  In addition, we ask that every congregation include a time of prayer for the Commission on the Way Forward during worship on July 29 and 30.

The 2016 General Conference gave a specific mandate to the Council of Bishops to “lead The United Methodist Church in discerning and proposing a way forward through the present impasse related to human sexuality and to explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” In response, the Council proposed – and the 2016 General Conference approved – the formation of a Commission that will assist in helping us find our way forward. The Commission on a Way Forward has been named by the Council of Bishops, and the 32 members have begun their work.

“Finding our way forward is the work of the whole church. As United Methodists we believe in the power of prayer and holy conferencing. Every annual conference is asked to be active preparers of the way forward by making a commitment to pray for the work of the commission, and by engaging in meaningful dialogue.” (Bishop Tracy S. Malone, September 9, 2016)

In her Episcopal Address during Annual Conference 2017, Malone asked that each East Ohio Conference congregation do something bold in this next ministry year, that they connect with the Four Areas of Focus, and that they do these three things:

  • Pray for the Commission on a Way Forward,
  • Participate in the a Way Forward conversations that will take place in our conference beginning this fall and continuing through the spring of 2018, and
  • Stay encouraged and focused on the mission of Christ and his Church.

We invite you to share prayers using the Facebook page East Ohio UMC Prayer. The Upper Room has made resources available at http://umcprays.org/.