The GNJ Way Forward Team and Connectional Table worked together on June 20-21 to move ahead with a plan that will help congregations thrive through different expressions as a new era of Methodism emerges.
The 35-member team includes laity and clergy representing GNJ’s congregational, ethnic and theological diversity. The members were affirmed at the March special session of Greater New Jersey’s annual conference in their charge to find a path that recognizes that GNJ has both disciples who embrace the passage of the traditional plan at general conference, and disciples that are hurt and in disagreement with the denomination’s plan concerning ministry with the LGBTQ community.
The GNJ Way Forward Team released the following agreements and steps to create what is next for Methodism in Greater New Jersey. They are basing their work grounded in the belief that in GNJ, disciples do not all think and act alike, but that they love and serve God together.
Hopes and Desires
We believe our congregations, leaders, mission partners and the people in our communities have similar hopes: to grow spiritually, to belong and be in community and connection with one another, to be mission-minded and purposeful, to contribute their experience and talents, to be free of judgement of and from others, to do well in our congregations and ministry, to live without fear and to have a voice.
We affirm and will continue to plan a way forward that supports our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ and grow vital congregations to transform the world.
Committed to being outward, the GNJ Way Forward Team is rooted in two principles:
Bless and love one another in the things that unite us.
Grow spiritually as we connect with one another and with the people in our communities.
Our goals to help organize congregations into new expressions are:
To work with our congregations to identify objectives, opportunities, challenges and structures that support their efforts to thrive.
To create new and renew current connections with one another through ministries, mission and administration in the next era of Methodism.
How We Measure Success
Churches grow in attendance, vitality and impact
Churches increase their stewardship
Conflict and anxiety diminish
Clergy fulfill their calling and serve without fear
To achieve these goals we will:
Create a statement and framework for pilots/models of new expressions of Methodism
Outline a communication plan and timeline so that we have feedback from the pilot programs before General Conference 2020
Schedule and carry out listening sessions and create an assessment tool
Identify ministries and programs that we currently share to help guide discussions on new and renewed connections
Launch 75 congregations into one of three pilot programs
Congregations that hold a scriptural view that same gender weddings should not be performed in our churches and that LGBTQ persons should not be ordained.
Congregations that hold different scriptural views and can be together recognizing there will be different practices and understandings of the LGBTQ community’s participation in the church.
Congregations that hold a scriptural view that Jesus invites everyone to participate fully in the life of the church and that all churches should allow same gender weddings and that all churches should be open to the appointment of an LGBTQ clergy person.
The team will work on these plans throughout the summer and keep the conference informed of their progress. They meet again in September and present a report on the proposed launch of the pilots at the special session of the annual conference scheduled for October 26.