Update from The GNJ Way Forward Team September 10-11

September 16, 2019 | GNJ News, The Way Forward

Dear Friends in Christ,

The GNJ Way Forward Team and Connectional Table just completed two days of work on our way forward.

The team was created to identify how GNJ clergy and congregations could be in ministry with the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly in light of recent changes to The Book of Discipline that adopted key pieces of the Traditional Plan which addresses ministry with gay and lesbian persons.

Our time together was productive and you were instrumental in helping us to move forward. We thank everyone who took time to participate in the listening sessions, focus groups and online survey. We learned that most people in GNJ:

  • want to remain united
  • want people to be able to live their convictions
  • want to continue our mission, ministry and services together
  • have questions about why we would move into pilots or a different expression
  • want support and an outside facilitator to assist with conversations about human sexuality within their congregation.

Our work together was difficult, even painful at times.  As we reassessed, we dove deeper into specifics and experienced firsthand how language that personalizes does real harm.   We are thankful for our spiritual director, Rev. Shawn Callender Hogan who centered us with the story of Hannah and Eli from 1 Samuel and the change that happens when we truly listen to each other.

We honor the trust you have placed in us and so based on your input we have changed some of our original direction.

Fundamentally, our principles and mission have not changed:

GNJ Way Forward Principles

  1. Bless and love one another in the things that unite us.
  2. Grow spiritually as we connect with one another and with the people in our communities.

GNJ Way Forward Team Goals

  1. To work with our congregations to identify objectives, opportunities, challenges and structures that support their efforts to thrive.
  2. To create new and renewed connections with one another through ministry and mission.

Our action steps forward, however, are being refined based on your input.  We have significantly more work to do in the coming weeks before we are ready to share our next steps.

We understand that waiting for information may create mistrust, but we also understand that our work is so important that providing information that is inaccurate or not fully complete will create confusion and widen the gulf of mistrust. Our objective is to be thorough, thoughtful, responsive, inclusive and clear.

We also recognize that people in GNJ have deep concerns and questions about proposals to divide the denomination and statements made by other conferences and groups.  We have included links at the bottom of this letter for you to read about different proposals and stances being discussed denominationally.

We will be preparing a pre-conference journal which will outline our work together, the framework for moving forward and our affirmation as a team.  You will receive the pre-conference journal by October 16 for the special session of annual conference scheduled for October 26.  A separate call letter will be sent with an agenda.

Thank you for your prayers, support and participation.  We feel God’s presence in all that we do.

The GNJ Way Forward Team
Rev. Sang Won Doh
Rev. Jeff Bills
Rachel Callender
Robert Dietz
Rev. Kay Dubuisson
Rev. Drew Dyson
Rev. Amanda Hemenetz
Zach Holder
Rev. Tom Korkuch
Diana Pearce

Rev. Isabel Quezada
Kathy Schulz
Bethany Amey Sutton
Rev. Cliff Still
Rev. David Wehrle
Lew Weil
Rosa Williams
Rev. Jessica Winderweedle
Michael Hoon Yang

The GNJ Connectional Table
Rev. Tanya Bennett
Rev. Debbie 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

Links to proposals and stances being discussed in the denomination:  

The Indianapolis Plan
UMC Next
Filipino bishop’s statement
African bishop’s statement