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On Thursday, June 28, seventy-two laity and pastors from United Methodist churches in Dubuque County, along with the Maquoketa UMC, came together at Grand View UMC to participate in a conversation and share information about our future possibilities as a United Methodist Church.
This informational meeting, organized by Pastor Tom C. Shinkle, was a way for all local United Methodists to come together, listen, and learn, in a safe space where everyone’s questions were treated with love and grace. This was not a meeting to choose sides or try to sway opinions.
“My first and most important goal was simply to share facts and information about what is happening in our denomination, and to allow people to ask questions and receive some answers. This included sharing basic information about our polity and structure, as a way to help everyone understand why these particular issues are not as easy to resolve as one might think,” said Pastor Shinkle.
It was made clear that this is a pivotal time in the United Methodist Church, as it moves toward General Conference 2019 where 864 delegates will vote on the denomination’s rules and regulations over LGBTQ+ ordination along with decisions about the UMC’s stances on human sexuality and marriage. There is potential for new ways of being organized and ordered as an international denomination.
The three current possible actions/proposals to the General Conference—as a result of the work of the Commission on a Way Forward were presented—with no endorsements given by the clergy in attendance. It was also made clear that there may be additional legislation or amendments to the basic outline of these three plans. Pastor Shinkle outlined the three proposals and then there was discussion and questions as to how the various proposals might affect local churches. Thoughtful conversation ensued. Attendees shared various thoughts such as: we should agree to disagree, the three options appear to tear us apart rather than unify us, there are simply different ways to interpret the Scriptures, we’re tired of fighting, this affects other parts of the world in stronger ways (life and death) than it does the United States, etc.
“Don’t let this tear you apart,” commented Pastor Emily Blue. “Lead by love. Love people more.”
After thoughtful and loving discussion, the evening wrapped up in a wonderful display of togetherness. Every attendee came together and held hands in a circle as pastor Chuck Layton prayed a beautiful prayer, asking God to open our hearts and be with us as we move forward toward General Conference and the unknown.
Pastor Shinkle concluded, “Aside from the topic tonight…set that aside…look around. Look at everyone here tonight. I want you to think about and pray about this now: what could we all do together that we struggle to do apart. That’s what I want to end with.”
Stay tuned for further information and updates in the months ahead as the conversation continues. An upcoming meeting officiated by Bishop Laurie Haller is expected to be held at Grand View United Methodist Church on September 23.