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Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson
Director of Congregational Excellence
I believe we are stronger united than we are divided and in a future filled with hope for the church. In other words, I believe our best days are not behind us! As the Director of Congregational Excellence of the Iowa Annual Conference, my purpose is to make God’s hope for the world real by preparing churches to multiply – that is, to reach new people for Christ! To that end, I work with congregations of all sizes, shapes, and theological leanings. I preach and teach around the topics of leadership, outreach, and being church in today’s world. I do not like labels, but if I am forced to claim one, I would be a progressive compatibilist when it comes to human sexuality, but I hold and proclaim a right of center theology. By progressive compatibilist, I mean that I want all people to be welcome fully into the life and leadership of the church, but I do not want to force others to believe as I believe. God calls all people into the church, and I want there to be space to receive those who God sends. Hearts and minds are seldom changed by force or by argument. In the same way, I want my LGTBQ+ siblings to be welcome and included; I also want to be part of a church that welcomes and includes those who hold a more traditional theological view.
In our work with Congregational Excellence, we have conducted the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) with many churches around the conference. What we are learning is that even the most conservative churches have about 30% of their people who hold the opposite view on human sexuality and, the same is true in our progressive churches – almost 1/3 of people have a different view of human sexuality. But what we ARE finding is that most of these churches, when faced with the possibility of losing 1/3 of their people, decide that staying together is MORE important than dividing over this issue. I want to be part of a church that welcomes both those congregations to the table.
I will remain part of the UMC going forward, in whatever shape that may take, as long as we find a way to live with, and even appreciate, different points of view. I do not want to be part of a church that rejects people who hold traditional views, nor do I want to be part of a church that refuses to fully love and include those in the LGBTQ+ community, or anyone else for that matter.
I believe in Jesus, I believe in scripture, I believe in being guided by the Holy Spirit. I believe in the creeds of the church, I believe in the richness of our Wesleyan theology, and I believe diversity is a blessing. I believe we can be that kind of church in Iowa!
Read the previous Leading Now personal reflections here.