A United Methodist Annual Conference is a unique animal. It describes and names a geographic region as well as an annual gathering of the pastors and lay members who live and serve within that geographic boundary. Geographically, the Great Plains Annual Conference consists of all the United Methodists Churches in Nebraska and Kansas (about 1,000 of them). By our rules, the membership of an annual conference consists of an equal number of clergy and lay members from the churches within that region, with an equal number of clergy and lay members. We have been rotating where we meet for our annual gathering, known as the Great Plains Annual Conference; this year we met in Wichita. The members who claim West Heights as their church were Adam Denton, Shayn Guillemette, and Jim Megrail (Adam was elected as a young adult representative of the Wichita West District).
That’s a lot of introduction to how I wanted to start this month’s Ramblings.
I just returned from Annual Conference, where the last act was the “fixing” of the appointments, the United Methodist way of saying that pastors were given their missional assignments. I am happy to report that I will continue to serve as one of the pastors at West Heights, and that Rev. Bev Baumgartner was appointed to serve here as well. It’s going to be a great year!
During the conference, we made several decisions, some of which have more significance than others, including the decision to ordain clergy and close churches and set a budget for 2019. What appeared in the newspaper after we were finished, however, was something we did not decide on! In addition to making decisions, we heard reports. Most of them are reports from places where our budgeted funds have been spent, informing us about the fruitfulness of the various ministries we support. We also heard some presentations from scholars and teachers. In addition, we had some great worship services – something I always look forward to.
What made the news, however, is the ongoing conversation about how our church responds to people who identify as LGBTQI. What was unique about this year’s discussion was that we only heard a report. There was no decision to be made … at least not yet. No action was taken, and yet it was reported as the headline in the Wichita Eagle, “Methodists Consider Rules about Same Sex Marriage, Gay Clergy” (June 17, 2018).
In July, I will preach a series of sermons (July 8, 15, & 22) where I hope to provide information on what we really talked about and what it might mean for us. What I know is that the decisions are yet to be made and that we are not the ones who will vote on the issues. But we can be informed; and we can be prepared for our response. I hope you’ll join us for this important conversation.