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A Way Forward?

In this month’s blog, Drinking the Cup, Rev. John Boley encourages dialogue on LGBTQ issues.

Clergy Assistant to the Bishop

The Michigan Area’s Director of Communications, Mark Doyal, pointed me to a very well written article in Good News magazine entitled, “Is There A Way Forward?” It was written by United Methodist clergyperson, Walter Fenton.

I was happy to read it and affirm that it is a very thorough, thoughtful, well-written, reasonable and realistic article about the possibilities of a Way Forward in the United  Methodist Church. This article is in the September/October 2017 edition of Good News and can be found in its entirety on the Good News website. I commend it to your reading.

Of course, the title and theme are a reference to the Commission on a Way Forward that was brought to life at General Conference 2016. The creation of this Commission prevented an implosion at General Conference, and is now holding the hopes of many for finding a way for the UMC to remain together. The Commission will issue its report to the Council of Bishops in April of 2018, with further reports to the public by July of 2018.

Fenton writes clearly and concisely and with seeming reasonable dispassion as he analyzes the prospects of a Way Forward. He writes with no inside knowledge of the Commission’s work, but with info and insight gleaned from other places. Fenton recites his belief that within the UMC there are three different groups: Reconcilers, Liberalizers and Conservatives. He then describes the general positions of all three of these groups, the core of their beliefs and their thought processes.

As I read this, I find myself as an unapologetic Reconciler leaning toward the Liberalizers. Where might you fall on this spectrum? I still hold great hope for finding a way for all United Methodists to live inside the UMC and grow together as LGBTQ issues, and many social justice issues, work their way through church and society over the years to come.

Fenton goes on to offer some of the proposed solutions, analyzing the possibility of the different groups leaving the denomination or being forced out of the denomination.

Unfortunately, Fenton does not offer any further solutions. As well-written as his article is, he is just about in the same place as the rest of us in our collective inability to see in the crystal ball or to offer up concrete solutions. He says, “There are no good options, only less bad ones.” And he offers the truism that, “…the Commission needs our prayers, patience and perhaps most importantly, our pragmatism.”

This article is still worth reading by everyone – reconcilers, liberalizers and conservatives. And what also will be worthwhile for us Michigan UMC people is to continue to be in dialog with one another. Without listening to everyone – – reconcilers, liberalizers and conservatives – there is little hope of us finding the best possible path for our church.

Fortunately, there are opportunities to be in dialog this fall. I urge you to participate in the Bishop’s offering of dialogue conversations called, “Weaving the Future: Connectional Conversations.”  They are being held:

  1. Sunday, September 24th at 3:00 pm at Marquette Hope UMC
  2. Monday, October 2nd at 7:00 pm at Holland First UMC
  3. Monday, November 20th at 7:00 pm at Southfield Hope UMC
  4. Thursday, December 7th at 7:00 pm at the Area Ministry Center in Lansing

I don’t have a crystal ball. And I don’t have any more insight than Rev. Fenton. But I do know that we don’t stand a chance if we can’t talk about it in civil fashion as led by the Holy Spirit as the peacemaker and comforter in our lives.