On Saturday, April 21 from 1 to 4 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Medford, United Methodists from across the region will participate in a Table Talk conversation as a way to engage the church’s current global discussion of human sexuality and the report of the Commission on a Way Forward, a commission of the Council of Bishops created at the last General Conference held in Portland, Oregon in 2016.
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, episcopal leader of the Oregon-Idaho Conference of United Methodist churches will be present.
The Commission on the Way Forward has been working to help the Council of Bishops lead the church forward amid the present impasse over the inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons, both lay and clergy, in the life of the church and the resulting questions about the unity of the church.
After meeting throughout the past two years, the Commission, made up of lay and clergy from throughout our global United Methodist connection, is completing its work and will give its final report to the Council of Bishops in April. The Council will read and discuss and pray over the report and its recommendations for a way forward for our church before making their recommendation to the Special Session of the General Conference set for St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.
Rev. Helen Cunanan, from the Philippines notes, “Sitting at the table with Commission members, I see persons honest enough and humble enough to see the great challenge or impasse that is before us. At the same time, I see so much commitment and passion to the work entrusted to us—passion for mission and ministry; passion for our forms and expressions of unity; passion for God. With the Holy Spirit’s leading, I believe we can embrace together a way forward.”
Dr. Aka Hortense, a layperson from Cote d’Ivoire, saw the Commission as an opportunity to meet people who have the same love of Jesus Christ and who are all members of the United Methodist Church, but with very different experiences and differing positions regarding the question of human sexuality.
“By listening,” she said, “and through reflections I have learned—in all humility—that unity, which seems so simple in the church, is fragile because each person has their own personality, their own cultural and religious context, their own education, their own life experiences, and their own truth.”
You are invited to join this global conversation across our church. As we gather around the tables to talk with one another, we will be asked to covenant together to stay curious, be kind, and to listen with the same amount of passion with which we want to be heard.
Bishop Stanovsky enjoins us with these words: “Christians don’t need to beat each other up when we disagree. If you love your church, and want it to see its mission witness remain strong around the world, I hope you will come to one of the Table Talks. If you are sick and tired of opposing sides in the church fighting about human sexuality, and who should be welcome in the Church, I hope you will come to one of the Table Talks. We can find a deeper unity, and new ways of listening to God and one another.”
I will be organizing rides for whoever from our congregation wishes to participate. If you would like to go with me, please give me a call at the church (541-884-4053) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).