GNJ pastors Rev. David Wehrle and Rev. Amanda Hemenetz represent diverse views regarding how United Methodists should be in ministry with the LGBTQIA+ community. However, together, they see a path forward sharing the ministry that unites United Methodists while blessing the differences that come between them. They shared their witness at the GNJ Annual Conference in May.

The following is their witness (edited for print). The full video of their testimony can be found in the Holy Conferencing video of GNJ’s webpages here.

The GNJ Way Forward Team is meeting in September and will present a framework for launching pilots for new expression of Methodism on October 26 at a specially called Annual Conference to be held at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.

Rev. Amanda Hemenetz Testimony

Christ is Risen. This is the faith that unites us. This is the truth that we are rooted in. Jesus Christ died and resurrected to offer us new life. That is good news.

My experience on this GNJ Way Forward Team is an echo of the Gospel. Despite our team’s incredible diversity and despite our obvious serious differences, just as Jesus chose a sinner like me, the GNJ Way Forward Team has accepted me and invited me in and I love them.

Each member of the GNJ Way Forward Team is working hard. We’re working hard on learning to be outward. We’re moving forward with one another. We’re learning to move beyond trying to change one another and toward listening and understanding one another.

When Jesus chose me, He showed me grace and acceptance. The Holy Spirit entered my life to begin a long way forward to holiness. People of faith, Christian brothers and sisters, we are a people of the Way Forward. Our Christian faith and life are a constant discerning of what the next way forward will be.

The GNJ Way Forward Team knows the “why.” We don’t have a plan with all the “hows” yet. I know it’s hard to wait. We all want to move forward, and we will.

Our spiritual director, Rev. Shawn Callender Hogan has reminded us that just as the Israelites followed a pillar of fire, we wait on the Holy Spirit, and we move forward in faith at the leading of our Lord.

I believe, sincerely, that the Holy Spirit desires to lead the GNJ Way Forward Team. I believe the team will choose to follow when the Holy Spirit moves and wait when the Holy Spirit says wait. I believe that as the GNJ Way Forward Team follows the Holy Spirit, the team can lead this Annual Conference into scriptural holiness and a winsome witness.

We need your help. We need your input, and we especially need your prayer that we will discern the way forward that Jesus has for us.

Rev. Amanda Hemenetz
Chair of the Reconciling Ministries Network

Rev. David Wehrle Testimony

Since coming onto the GNJ Way Forward team in that first meeting, my scripture has been the scripture that says, “Verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bears much fruit” and that’s from the Gospel of John. (John 12:24)

We are in a time of death in the UMC. In my opinion, we’ve been on hospice care for quite a while. Sometimes death is a good thing. In Easter season, death is a time for new life. In our GNJ Way Forward Team, that is what I see. I see new life. I see a new church. I see a new beginning, and I see it being much better than it is right now.

The GNJ Way Forward Team is in conversations larger than the issue of sexuality. We are talking about the Book of Discipline, polity, theology, how we see each other and how we see the church. We are talking about how we work together or how we don’t.  We are talking about mission and what we should be talking about as a church of Jesus Christ. We look forward to reclaiming things that have been lost and to creating things new. That’s what we’re working on, on the Way Forward.

We talk about blessing each other to go out and do ministry; to go out and be the church. I truly believe that when we are done with our work as a Way Forward Team, we will be able to be the church much better than we have in many years.

I see my church accepting people who are gay and lesbian, as disciples, in leadership and in marriage. And I see other churches celebrating disciples and covenants differently. We’d all be reaching people for Christ. That’s what we’re all called to do and the work of the GNJ Way Forward Team is enabling us to get there.

Please keep us in prayer, know that we are hopeful. Know that we are joyful. Know that you have a future. Thank you.

Rev. David Wehrle
Vice Chair of Wesleyan Covenant Association

For Reference

Holy Conferencing Way Forward Transcription

David Wehrle (DW): Christ is Risen. Amen. This is the faith that unites us and this is the truth that we are rooted in. Jesus Christ died and resurrected to offer us new life and that is good news.

Look, my experience on this Way Forward team at this point is an echo of the Gospel. Despite our team’s incredible diversity and despite our obvious serious differences, just as Jesus chose a sinner like me, the Way Forward team has accepted me and invited me in and I love them.

People have asked me about the atmosphere on the Way Forward team and honestly each team member is working hard, we’re working hard on learning outward mentality. We’re moving forward with one another, we’re learning to move beyond trying to change one another and toward listening and understanding one another.

Listen, when Jesus chose me, praise the Lord, he showed me grace and acceptance. Then the Holy Spirit entered my life to begin to work sanctification in me to begin this long way forward to holiness. People of faith, Christian brothers and sisters, we are a people of the Way Forward. Our Christian faith and life is a constant discerning of what the next way forward will be.

The Way Forward team doesn’t have a plan with all the how’s yet, and I know that may be disappointing. It’s hard to wait. We all want to move forward and we will.

Our spiritual director, Rev Callender Hogan has reminded us that just as the Israelites followed a pillar of fire, we wait on the Holy Spirit and we move forward in faith at the leading of our Lord.

I believe, sincerely, that the Holy Spirit desires to lead the Way Forward team and I believe the team can choose to follow when the Holy Spirit moves and wait when the Holy Spirit says wait. I believe that as the Way Forward team follows the Holy Spirit, the team can lead this Annual Conference into scriptural holiness and a winsome witness.

We need your help. We need your help. We need your input, and we especially need your prayer that we will indeed discern the way forward that Jesus has for us.

Amanda Hemenetz (AH): Since coming onto the Way Forward team in that first meeting, my scripture has been the scripture that says, “Verily I say unto you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bears much fruit” and that’s from the Gospel of John. (John 12:24)

We are in a time of death in the UMC, in my opinion we’ve kind of been on hospice care for quite a while in a way and sometimes death is a good thing and we are in Easter season and that is the time for new life and in our Way Forward team, that is what I see. I see new life. I see a new church. I see a new beginning and I see it being much better than it is right now.

We have been having conversations not just about sexuality, but about the discipline in general, about polity, about theology, about how we se each other and how we see the church. About how we work together or how we don’t. About mission. About what we should be talking about as a church of Jesus Christ and we look forward to reclaiming things that have been lost and to creating things new. That’s what we’re working on, on the Way Forward.

When the Bishop first told us at that first Way Forward meeting that it was time to split, you could have heard a pin drop. I didn’t sleep for three nights. Not because I was upset or scared, but because I had more hope than I’ve had in years. Because it’s time. It’s time and the way that we’re approaching this from the Way Forward team, is not a lament. It’s not something to argue about. It’s not something to cause anger or fear, it is something to rejoice in because it is forward looking, forward moving and hope-filled.

We talk about blessing each other to go out and do ministry; to go out and be the church and I truly believe that when we are done with our work as a Way Forward team, that we will be able to do that much better than we have done it in many years.

I see a church, my church, accepting people who are gay and lesbian holding weddings. I can marry them, everything. Everything. And I see David and churches that he may serve doing other things, but we all be doing them well. We’d all be reaching people for Christ. That’s what we’re all called to do and this work is enabling us to get there.

We are willing to work for you. To help you all get there. So again, echoing David, I would say please keep us in prayer, know that we are hopeful. Know that we are joyful. Know that you have a future. Thank you.