They heard reports, they got acquainted, they felt the Spirit, and they made a statement. Eighteen members of the Michigan Conference Delegation prepared for their work at the 2020 NCJ Conference next July.
Michigan Conference Communications
Members of the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conference delegations from the North Central Jurisdiction acknowledged and apologized for harm that is being done to those who are marginalized and called for a moratorium on complaints, charges, and trials related to LGBTQIA issues at a gathering November 8-9.
Coordinated by the North Central Jurisdiction Mission Council, the two-day pre-GC2020 meeting brought 140 voting delegates, alternates and council members to the First Korean United Methodist Church of Wheeling, Illinois. Eighty percent of the participants approved the declaration statement.
“What we have done as a jurisdiction, I believe, at this gathering is we have defined ourselves.” ~ Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai
“What we have done as a jurisdiction, I believe, at this gathering is we have defined ourselves,” said the Rev. Kennetha Bigham-Tsai, co-chair of the Michigan delegation and chief connectional ministries officer with the UMC Connectional Table. “We have said, this is who we are and this is how we want to be in ministry with all people. That is especially important right now for the life of the church to say clearly, we want to be in ministry fully with our LGBTQIA siblings.”
Eighteen of 20 Michigan delegation members attended the gathering, listened to presentations about upcoming General Conference legislation, heard presentations about the upcoming jurisdictional conference, participated in small-group discussions, met other NCJ delegates, enjoyed a traditional Korean dinner, and shared communion. The 2020 meeting of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference is scheduled for July 15-18 in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
Laura Witkowski, co-chair of the Michigan delegation and Associate Director for Lay Leadership Development of The Michigan Conference, also serves on the Mission Council. “As vice-chair of the Council, I was so pleased with the turnout by our delegations. Everyone came ready to learn and dialogue,” she said. “The Michigan delegation feedback was positive and it was great for new delegates to begin relationships across the delegations. The conversation in my small group was diverse and respectful.”
One Michigan jurisdictional conference delegate also felt God’s movement throughout the gathering. “It was a chance to be encouraged and heartened to see the groups from across our jurisdiction come together,” said Hoon-Yung Hopgood, a member of Troy Korean UMC, “and have an opportunity to commune, an opportunity to fellowship, and to roll up our sleeves a little bit and do some work. It was a chance to really look to the imperative of the Gospel and the power of the Spirit to vision and to seek out a church that is more inclusive.”
Presentations regarding proposed legislation at the May 2020 General Conference included:
- the UMC Connectional Table proposal to create a new U.S. regional conference;
- a proposal to establish a new clergy, account-based retirement plan titled “Compass”;
- a Jurisdictional Study Committee proposal for reallocation and funding of bishops;
- sexual ethics proposals from the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women;
- revised Social Principles from the General Board of Church and Society;
- budget issues for 2021 from General Commission on Finance and Administration; and
- the status of a proposed General Book of Discipline.
During the gathering, delegates also forged new relationships during cross-conference, small group discussion sessions. As a first-time General Conference delegate, Jennifer Peters, a member of Flint Court Street United Methodist Church, appreciated the dialogues. “I thought this was a great space to get to know our delegation a little bit more. More importantly, to get to know people in the Jurisdiction,” she said. “Being new to this, I didn’t know anyone in the Jurisdiction. It was great to sit down around the table and have good discussion and get to know faces we’ll see throughout the year.”
“We need to continue to pray, continue to roll up our sleeves and listen to each other and work with each other but also trust that God has a brighter tomorrow.” ~ Hoon-Yung Hopgood
Bigham-Tsai echoed appreciation for meeting other delegates. “I particularly enjoyed the small group sessions,” she said. “The ways in which we were able to get some things out honestly on the table but also create safe space for one another to really share their hearts. I believe people felt safe and it was a group of people who felt differently about things.”
During the current time of uncertainty and disruption across the denomination, sharing hopes, dreams, aspirations, and journeys with other jurisdictional delegates through a respectful process provided optimism for some of the attendees.
“To see the work that was done (here),” Hopgood said, “leads me to believe that Methodism is alive and well. We need to continue to pray, continue to roll up our sleeves and listen to each other and work with each other but also trust that God has a brighter tomorrow.”