Michigan delegates and observers came together on Tuesday, a day of momentous decision, with a variety of emotions. For some it was the Fourth of July, for others Good Friday.
JOHN E. HARNISH
Michigan Conference Communications
As the morning dawns on the last day of the Special General Conference, Michigan United Methodists gathered in “The Dome” in St. Louis to see what the day will hold. The Rev. Joy Barrett and Lay Delegate Wayne Banks relinquished their seats so that Alex Plum and the Rev. Megan Crumm Walther, two of the young adults from Michigan could be seated for the morning session.
After a tough day, the delegates and observers came to the massive hall with a host of emotions. David Lundquist has a long history with General Conferences. He was a General Conference delegate from the former West Michigan Conference and served as the General Secretary of the General Council on Ministries for the denomination. When asked, “What kind of a holiday are you celebrating today?” he said, “Well, it’s challenging to think about Easter right now, but you have to have hope.” With his long history, he reflected on what it is like to move forward from the conference. “It takes a while,” he said, “to sort it all out and to get the broader perspective.”
Both reserve clergy delegate Laura Speiran and clergy delegate Rev. Joy Barrett said, “Yesterday felt like Good Friday. Today feels like Holy Saturday. We know what has been lost and we wait to see what is yet to be.” Joy affirmed her faith in “the God of Resurrection—that’s where my hope is.” Since her daughter identifies as a queer Christian, Laura is feeling the burden of the moment. “When I came here, I was feeling that if the Traditional Plan passed, I would probably have to leave the church. We will need a new church where all persons are welcomed, and all are affirmed”.
Other delegates are also seeking to find hope. Laurie Dahlman is a lay reserve delegate and former Conference Lay Leader in West Michigan. A self-identified conservative and supporter of the Traditional Plan, she said, “I am still wondering because it’s not over yet. I just want God’s will to be done.” She thought about the years of debate about homosexuality, feeling that is has drained energy which should be going into making disciples for Jesus Christ. “People are hurting,” she said, “and I feel sad for everybody because of the chaos and confusion. I am hopeful this conference will help us move forward.” Rev. Tom Arthur, pastor of the multi-site Sycamore Creek UMC in Lansing, had to leave the conference early but was glad he had been able to be here to experience the global nature of the church. He recognizes that faithful Christians can disagree and feels that the traditional plan would not give much room for that.
Rebecca Wilson, the Director of Discipleship at Central UMC, Detroit is one of those persons feeling the heaviness of the day. She was an ordained Deacon who worked for the Detroit District and UMCOR until she came out and surrendered her ordination credentials. “I feel like Ash Wednesday. I feel like Tamar who was rejected and raped.” Regrettably, she encountered the same bias here when a woman said, “Why don’t you just dust off your shoes and go someplace that will accept you.” But Rebecca still has a deep love for the United Methodist Church. When she gave up her ordination, she traveled through several other denominations, and always had a longing to come home. “That’s the United Methodist Church, and I don’t want to have to leave again.”
The Rev. Matt Hook, reserve clergy delegate, came to St. Louis with what he called “a strange peace” and is still at peace, relying on his daily reading of the Psalms. He said from his seat in the upper concourse he feels like it is Fourth of July, watching the spectacle and the fireworks. Though he hosted the Wesley Covenant Association in his church in Dexter, he said he would have done the same for other groups as well. He suggested that this might be a “Paul and Barnabas moment” in the life of the church when the two separated and both went about the business of making disciples of Jesus Christ.
As the morning wakens, all the Michigan Methodists are looking for the “way forward,” believing that God is not finished with the United Methodist Church, knowing that this day will shape the future of the United Methodist Church as together the church seeks to do God’s will.
Last Updated on March 4, 2019