Update from the GNJ Way Forward Team | May 13 Meeting

May 15, 2019 | GNJ News, The Way Forward

We give thanks for your prayers and input to the Way Forward Team. The Team met on Monday, May 13 to continue to explore the next steps for GNJ’s Way Forward. Our conversations have been transformative. Our spiritual director, Rev. Shawn Callender Hogan grounded us with a devotion about attending to the movement of God in the midst of the fog when we are unsure what is ahead of us.

We continue to learn and use the tools of an outward mindset in our work together and in consideration of those who will move forward with this important responsibility. Ashley Wilson and Nicola Mulligan led us to understand the Outward Mindset principles from the Arbinger Institute. To best serve together the people of GNJ and our communities, we will need to turn outward to support each other for what is next for our congregations.

We agreed that transparency and regular communication is key to our work. The following outlines Monday’s report which will be discussed more fully at the annual conference session on Tuesday.

GNJ’s Way Forward Purpose
Help congregations thrive by turning the church outward through new expressions of Methodism.

The current witness and mission of The United Methodist Church is weakened by our division and impasse about human sexuality. New expressions – in the form of models, methods and organization – will provide opportunity for diverse congregations to live authentic beliefs, convictions and practices, while remaining connected to increase our impact through witness and mission in the world.

Why identifying a way forward is best done through an annual conference
Annual conference leadership can set the pace and tone for what is next for United Methodists. While a global vote spoke for the denomination, it did not speak for many of the people in the pews and clergy in GNJ. A General Conference vote does not fully represent particular contexts and forces everyone to implement new sweeping policies at one time. A gradual and contextual change better serves congregations. These issues are complex, and a contextual change allows congregations and clergy to adapt at a pace that is more realistic to their needs.

Goals

  1. Renew the church by turning the church outward – renew our relationship with God, one another and the community so that we connect a life changing and relevant Gospel message with the people in our communities.
  2. Bless one another – while not all agreeing, we will not inhibit congregations, disciples and clergy from pursuing their convictions and calling.
  3. Identify objectives for congregations to thrive and a structure to support their efforts.
  4. Identify a process and guidelines for ready and willing congregations to model congregational groupings such as:

a. Traditionalist congregations that hold a scriptural view that same gender weddings should not be performed in our churches and that LGBTQI+ persons should not be ordained.

b. Congregations that believe churches can be together even though they have different biblical interpretations and understanding of the LGBTQI+ community’s participation in the church.

c. Open and affirming 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 LGBTQI+ clergy person.

We also expect that each of these groups, as well as the rest of the conference, will focus on making disciples and growing vital congregations, connecting with the community, engaging younger and more diverse disciples, continuing our work on cultural competence and ending racism and sexism within the church, and developing Hope Centers.

5. Identify the ministry, mission and administration through which we will continue to connect with one another.

The Way Forward Team’s Role
In our Wesleyan heritage, GNJ Methodists have been leaders in creating paths and solutions for challenges we have faced in the midst of our diversity. The Way Forward Team will create sacred space and process so that local and conference leadership can assist GNJ congregations to:

• Bless one another without trying to change each other
• Explore new expressions of ministry
• Create Sacred Space for these conversations to happen
• Thrive during transitional times
• Listen and communicate with transparency

Questions to be Used with GNJ Leadership Groups and Congregations

  1. How have the General Conference decisions and the Book of Discipline passages about the LGBTQI+ community affected your ministry positively and/or negatively?
  2. What renewal of the church (i.e., new idea, vision, possibility, way of being, or organization) excites you so that you would support it and work toward it?
    a. Within your congregation
    b. Within GNJ
  3. What do you want to continue in the next phases/expressions of Methodism?
  4. What don’t you want to continue?
    a. Within your congregation
    b. Within GNJ
  5. What can the denomination/GNJ do to help grow the vitality of your congregation?
  6. What would a successful transition to the next Methodism look like for your congregation/group?
  7. What can GNJ do to help your congregation move toward the next Methodism?
  8. What type of updates do you want about what’s next for Methodism, and how often do you want the updates?

Timeline

May 2019
The GNJ Way Forward Team presents the desire to pilot different expressions at the Annual Conference session.

Summer 2019
The GNJ Way Forward Team and Connectional Table identify the parameters of what we will pilot.

Summer/Fall 2019
Convene laity and clergy listening sessions.

Fall 2019
The GNJ Way Forward Team presents the plan and launch date to a Special Annual Conference Session.

Fall 2019
Congregations and clergy decide if they want to participate in a pilot to help develop the Next Methodism.

Winter/Spring 2020
Congregations pilot and learn as we move into a new configuration that turns the church outward releasing us for powerful mission.

May 2020
Report to the Annual Conference Session evaluation, learnings and recommendations.

The Members of the Way Forward Team
Below are the members of the team. Additionally, the Connectional Table, the elected leadership of GNJ, are working closely with the team because they will have responsibility for oversight and implementation.

Way Forward Team
Rev. Sang Won Doh
Rev. Jeff Bills
Rachel Callender
Robert Dietz
Rev. Kay Dubuisson
Rev. Amanda Hemenetz
Zach Holder
Rev. Tom Korkuch
Diana Pearce
Rev. Isabel Quezada
Kathy Schulz
Rev. Cliff Still
Rev. David Wehrle
Lew Weil
Rosa Williams
Rev. Jessica Winderweedle
Michael Yang

Connectional Table
Rev. Tanya Bennett
Rev. Debbe Barnett
Rev. Sarah Borgstrom Lee
Rev. John Callanan
Rev. Christine Day
Rev. Debra De Vos
Robert Dietz
Rev. Evan Dodge
Rev. Sang Won Doh
Rev. Karline Dubuisson
Rev. Blair Goold
Eleanor Hartley
Rev. Chris Heckert
Rev. Tom Korkuch
Rev. Vijaya Kumar
Rev. Isabel Quezada
Rev Iraida Ruiz de Porras
Rev. Michelle Ryoo
Kathy Schulz
Rev. Clifford Still
Lewis Weil
Rev. David Wiley
Rosa Williams
Rev. Vanessa Wilson
Rev. William Wilson Sr
Rev. Sang Won Doh
Way Forward Team Convener