On February 23, elected United Methodist delegates along with our bishops will gather in St. Louis, Missouri, for a called special session of General Conference. The goal of the meeting is to find a way forward through our disagreements about same-sex marriage and ordination of LGBTQ clergy.
You and I may feel far removed from what is happening in St. Louis, but there are ways we can follow what's happening and support those doing the work.
Begin with prayer
There are many people involved in the 2019 General Conference Special Session. Lift them up in prayer beginning today.
Pray for your delegates. Your annual conference has elected delegates, half who are clergy and half who are laypeople. Pray for them by name (all delegates are listed by region in this document beginning on page 73). Then pray for the rest of the delegates coming to St. Louis from all over the world to make these important decisions for the church.
Pray for your bishop. Bishops do not vote at General Conference, but they lead the sessions. It can be a very taxing job to manage the legislative process of more than 800 delegates. Find your bishop's name on umc.org when you search by region. Be sure to include the other bishops in your prayers as well.
Pray for support staff. Holding a General Conference takes the work of many behind-the-scenes people. Lift them up in prayer as well. There are long, tiring days ahead for them. Pray for the Holy Spirit to grant them strength.
Pray for your church. Remember to pray for your pastor, staff and members who are answering questions. Pray also for your denomination The United Methodist Church as we wrestle with these disagreements.
Get the facts
You may read about General Conference 2019 on social media or secular news. Before responding or reacting, be sure to check the facts. The United Methodist Church has an informative website where you can learn more. Go to www.umc.org/GC2019.
There you will find great resources to help you better understand the issues at hand. For example, one story tells about what a General Conference Special Session is. Another explains what can be found in the Report of the Commission on a Way Forward, the document the General Conference is charged to receive and act upon. Another contains a chart that summarizes the proposed plans the delegates may be voting on.
You can also take a deeper dive into the issues there. One helpful link allows you to download the Commission on a Way Forward report (English | French | Portuguese | Swahili | Spanish), which includes a summary of the work done to understand all sides of the issues. For updates on what has happened since the report was written, there is a link to stories from United Methodist News, our independent news agency that is closely following the story.
Throughout the Bible, God surprises people. Through the prophets, God said unexpected things to kings, judges and other religious leaders. The teachings of Jesus often confounded the disciples, Pharisees, and others who thought they knew God's Law well. Paul, the author of much of the New Testament, began as a persecutor of the church, convinced that was God's will.
Today, we may feel fairly certain we know exactly how God wants this to turn out, what Jesus would have us do, and where the Spirit is leading us. But remember God continues to surprise us.
Spend time with some Scriptures of surprise (we suggest several below). As you read, put yourself in the place of those who think they know what God will do, but are surprised.
Additionally, the many stories on the site will continue to help us understand everything that is happening. Remember, UMC.org/GC2019 is the best place to check the facts.
Continue in prayer
In the days leading up to the conference, the days they are in session, and the months that follow, remain in prayer for The United Methodist Church. May God guide us into a continued ministry of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
This story was posted February 14, 2019.