Responsively Yours: Join the Conversations

Responsively Yours: Join the Conversations
Harriett Jane Olson speaks at the Women Transforming the World Conference held in Maputo, Mozambique, Oct. 17-20, 2017.

Nothing is more powerful than a conversation. In a real conversation, both parties show up. They bring their attention to the present moment and to what is being said. A conversation is something that happens between people. It is not just a series of speeches, but an engagement in which we learn about someone else’s experience, and develop and reflect on our own thoughts and perspectives. Conversations can help us see the world through the lens of a broadened perspective.

The Commission on a Way Forward has been engaging in a conversation as it prepares a report to come to the Special Session of General Conference in 2019. Between now and then we will also be engaging in conversations as United Methodist Women.

Differences of belief and opinion about how The United Methodist Church should include, minister to and treat our LGBTQ members have been a source of conflict since the first language addressing homosexuality was added to The Book of Discipline in 1972. Now, some have begun to say that they can no longer be part of a denomination that they see as discriminating against LGBTQ members and causing them harm. Others have begun to say that they can no longer be part of a denomination that includes what they consider to be biblically appropriate positions in The Book of Discipline but that the church does not seem to live by. The conflict about this is intense, deeply felt and very personal as we think about how we read and understand the Bible, how we expect our family and friends and ourselves to be treated, and how the church can handle our differences with love, honoring each other.

It is important that members of United Methodist Women participate in the conversation. In United Methodism, policy and doctrine is decided in Conferences, comprised 50/50 of lay/clergy. While we look to bishops and clergy for wisdom and discernment, as laity we also have wisdom and discernment to share. We have expertise is in a variety of areas. Science, psychology, sociology, history, ethics, the Bible and the arts all have contributions to make.

Throughout the year, United Methodist Women in every Conference will be scheduling conversations to bring our members together to share your wisdom, observations, aspirations and questions as the church prepares for the special session. We will be acknowledging the existence of different viewpoints and asking: How should we treat each other within the church in the face of this conflict? We will also be talking about our preferred future for our church How might we faithfully stay together or divide? It is my hope that United Methodist Women members will express their views to their pastors and congregations, to the members of their General Conference delegation and to their bishops.

Sisters, you have wisdom and experience to share that is born of working together amidst differences for many years. You have seen conflicts resolved well and conflicts resolved poorly. You have families that have stayed close and families that have pulled apart. The church needs your prayers, your wisdom and your willingness to engage. Please say “yes” to participating in conversation and find ways to speak your mind and heart as we journey together.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 1/11/2018 12:00:00 AM