NCJ delegates meet, repent of harm to LGBTQIA+ people

November 14, 2019
Rev. Donna Dempewolf puts the sign of the cross on Dave Nuckols' forehead as part of a reaffirmation of baptism during worship at the North Central Jurisdictional gathering. Photos by Becky Boland.

By: Christa Meland

Delegates from the North Central Jurisdiction met near Chicago last weekend to talk about the state of the jurisdiction and discuss the denomination’s future in preparation for next year’s General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Members of the jurisdiction’s Mission Council, which oversees its ministries and budget, joined them.

At the gathering, the clergy and laity in attendance released a statement that calls for a moratorium on complaints, charges, and trials related to same-sex marriages and LGBTQIA+ credentialing and greater freedom for ministry with the LGBTQIA+ community.

“As Christian people, we cannot allow harm to continue, least of all in our churches,” said Minnesota lay delegate Becky Boland. “The statement passed last weekend is a start to acknowledging the harm done as we undertake the steps of asking for repentance and changing our church so we can become the people Methodists have always been called to be.”

Other members of the 2020 Minnesota delegation present were Revs. Donna Dempewolf, Henry Dolopei, Woojae Im, Jeff Ozanne, and Carol Zaagsma, and lay people Shirley Durr, Jessica Lanes, Dave Nuckols, and Cindy Saufferer.

During one worship service, Zaagsma welcomed other attendees to Minneapolis for General Conference next May, and she and Im led a reaffirmation of baptism. After people received the sign of the cross on their foreheads, they were invited to take a glass bead to keep.

“Each one has a reflective sheen, so as you look at it, I hope it might remind you that through the sacrament of baptism, you ‘put on Christ’ and are initiated into Christ’s holy church,” said Zaagsma. “So when you see your reflection in your glass bead, may you also see the reflection of Christ.  And when you see your reflection in your glass bead, may you also remember to see Christ in others…for we do make up his body together.”

Rev. Carol Zaagsma leads a reaffirmation of baptism during worship.

Here is the full statement adopted by those present at the gathering:

“Gathering on November 8 and 9, 2019, in a crucial moment in the life of The United Methodist Church, we, 140 members present and voting from the North Central Jurisdiction’s Annual Conference delegations and the North Central Jurisdiction’s Mission Council, through honest, prayerful dialogue, discerned the following:

· We as NCJ delegations acknowledge and apologize for the harm that is being done and the escalation of potential harm that will begin January 1, 2020. We repent of the ways we have abused our privilege and the ways that it has harmed the marginalized.

· We witness the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. We witness God’s seeking, saving, healing and liberating grace at work in our communities. We renew our commitment to follow the Spirit’s leading and joining in God’s gracious work.

· We believe that God is not finished with the people called United Methodist. We renew our commitment to lead our conferences, congregations and ministry settings in ‘making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world’ in just, compassionate, creative, equitable and innovative ways.

· We call NCJ laity, clergy, Annual Conferences and bishops to covenant to a moratorium on complaints, charges and trials related to officiating same gendered weddings and LGBTQIA+ identity and credentialing.

· We call laity, clergy, Annual Conferences, Boards of Ordained Ministry and bishops to covenant for greater freedom and diversity for ministry with LGBTQIA+ people.

· We will hold accountable and support laity, clergy, Annual Conferences and bishops in these commitments and calls.

· When we gather for the 2020 NCJ Conference, we desire to elect bishops who will join us in these commitments and calls.”

Eighty percent of those present voted in favor of the statement, 18 percent voted against it, and 2 percent abstained.

“As the chair of the Mission Council, I had some concrete hopes for the gathering,” said North Central Jurisdiction Mission Council Chair Ryan M. Russell. “As the body worked together, the spirit of openness and respect was present even with some disagreement. I am heartened that we as the United Methodist in the NCJ were able to come to a common place with the document adopted by this gathering.”

The North Central Jurisdiction includes the Minnesota, Dakotas, East Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Northern Illinois, West Ohio, and Wisconsin Annual Conferences.
The 2020 General Conference will take place May 5-15 in Minneapolis, and the 2020 North Central Jurisdictional Conference will take place July 15-18 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At General Conference, delegates play a key role in making decisions that impact the future of The United Methodist Church, and at Jurisdictional Conference, delegates elect bishops.
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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