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Letter from delegates urge hope for denominations future

Delegates sing during a 2019 worship service of the Special Session of General Conference, held in St. Louis, Mo. General Conference delegates and other church leaders have signed an open letter following General Conference’s third postponement— aiming to share a hopeful message for the continuing United Methodist Church. File photo by Paul Jeffrey for UM News.
Delegates sing during a 2019 worship service of the Special Session of General Conference, held in St. Louis, Mo. General Conference delegates and other church leaders have signed an open letter following General Conference’s third postponement— aiming to share a hopeful message for the continuing United Methodist Church. File photo by Paul Jeffrey for UM News.
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Since the postponement of General Conference to 2024, much of the news has been about church disaffiliations and denominational divisions.

No question the rhetorical punches are flying on social media and in newsletters. However, many United Methodists see no reason to throw in the towel on the church they love.

More than 275 General Conference delegates and other church leaders released an open letter March 18 that shares their hopes for the denomination’s future and their commitment to stay United Methodist.

“Ministry is happening now!” said the Letter to the Connection upon the Postponement of General Conference. “With each of you, we will do the work of Christ that will lead our church into Easter resurrection.”

Most of the signers come from across the United States. Other United Methodists are invited to sign.

The Rev. Eric Swanson, a delegate from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, said he and the letter’s other writers wanted to present a positive vision while acknowledging there is still work to do.

“We care deeply about the future of The United Methodist Church,” said Swanson, lead pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Pekin, Illinois. “We care that it continues to grow and is prospering, and that it’s strengthening effective witness in ministry.”

The letter signers also join with the United Methodist bishops’ “Narrative for the Continuing United Methodist Church” in committing to be “… one people, rooted in Scripture, centered in Christ, serving in love and united in the essentials.”

After decades of intensifying debates, many expected the coming General Conference to adopt a formal plan for the denomination to separate along theological lines. The most endorsed proposal would have allowed congregations and annual conferences that support the denomination’s current bans to leave with property and $25 million in United Methodist funds to start a new denomination.

The March 18 letter strikes a different tone, speaking of excitement for the continuing United Methodist Church.

Derrick Scott III, a delegate and campus minister in the Florida Conference, said the United Methodist witness to the world matters more as some begin their departure from the denomination.

Fred Brewington, one of the letter writers and a delegate from the New York Conference, said his prayer is that United Methodists not try to get back to business as usual.

“Instead, we should take this opportunity to see the new thing that God is doing and that through our collective and shared vision, we live into a bright and exciting time of mission and ministry,” he said.

excerpt from a story by Heather Hahn, assistant news editor, UMNS

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