On March 3, the Commission on the General Conference announced that General Conference 2020 would be further postponed to 2024. Here's a look at what that means for us as the Minnesota Annual Conference and how we will live together during this extended liminal time.
United Methodists around the world, including Minnesotans, have been waiting for a very long time to resolve The United Methodists Church’s longtime impasse over LGBTQIA+ inclusion. General Conference 2020 was going to be the time to chart a way forward, likely through an amicable separation for the denomination. Today’s news of a further postponement of this gathering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while expected, still may elicit feelings of disappointment and frustration that we continue in this prolonged season of waiting and wondering.
The Council of Bishops will meet on March 8 to discuss implications of this postponement and how we can move forward as a church, considering issues such as holding jurisdictional conferences for the election of bishops, the disaffiliation process, and a pathway to new expressions of United Methodism in advance of the next General Conference. Bishop David Bard will share more information as details become clear.
So then, how do we live in the meantime?
We continue to engage in the ongoing work of creating a post-pandemic church. The Minnesota Annual Conference is clear about its vision: that every congregation be a vital expression of the scriptural imperatives to grow in love of God and neighbor, reach new people, and heal a broken world. In the aspirational vision adopted at the 2019 Annual Conference, we have identified four core values that guide our shared journey: We are rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all persons, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation. Living into our vision and embodying our core values means that we are committed to creating a place at the table for everyone, including LGBTQIA+ persons, and to listening more deeply to voices that have often been marginalized. The Extended Cabinet has created a statement of our commitments that speaks specifically to how we hold the value of LGBTQIA+ inclusion in this waiting season. We believe we are stronger and better together, and even as we await General Conference, we will continue living into our vision and embodying our values. We are not at a standstill.
To be clear, whenever General Conference 2020 takes place: If legislation is adopted through which the continuing United Methodist Church commits to the full inclusion of all persons, and the prohibitive language in the Book of Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons is removed, this would align with our aspirational vision and the intention is that the Minnesota Annual Conference would remain part of The United Methodist Church. If General Conference does not make progress toward a fully inclusive church and ends in a stalemate, our expectation is that the Minnesota Annual Conference will chart a new future with other like-minded annual conferences that are committed to our values of being rooted in Jesus, grounded in Wesleyan theology, inclusive of all persons, and engaged in the work of justice and reconciliation. The North Central Jurisdiction, at its latest meeting, adopted a “Covenant to Build BeLoved Community” that names a commitment to anti-racism work and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. We are a part of a larger movement within United Methodism.
We must remember that we, as the Minnesota Annual Conference, can decide what our future holds. Nothing about General Conference meeting or not meeting prevents us from following the call of Jesus to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Regardless of the outcome of the next General Conference, we will be unwavering in our commitment to full inclusion and laser focused on furthering Jesus’s ministry of extending abundant life to all of God’s children. This extended liminal time does not change who we are as the Minnesota Annual Conference or who we are in Christ.
So as we look ahead and await General Conference 2020, let us live the way of Jesus—with patience, acceptance, grace, and understanding for one another—and let us focus on being the conference, churches, pastoral leaders, and disciples that we know we’re called to be.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church