With the 2019 Leadership Institute in its backyard at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, better than one in 10 attendees were from the Great Plains Conference.
More than 260 pastors and laity from Kansas and Nebraska attended the Institute, Sept. 25-27. Nearly 2,500, representing all 54 annual conferences and 46 states, attended the 21st annual Institute.
The program included a 75-minute “strategy breakout” for each conference, where those in the Great Plains talked about the challenges and opportunities – as well as possibilities of resistance – in the time before the 2020 General Conference in May in Minneapolis.
Catey Osborne, youth minister at Lincoln St. Mark’s UMC, said the Leadership Institute gave her hope.
“It gave me hope that the United Methodist denomination will continue to strive to have healthy and loving conversations regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ + people,” she said.
The Rev. Nick Talbott, pastor of Salina University UMC, said his views shifted in the same manner as the Rev. Adam Hamilton, from being against LGBTQ marriage and ordination to in favor of it.
“As a person who’s made the journey from the more traditional side of theology to the more progressive side, it’s good for me that journey has been talked about here,” Talbott said. “I’ve been able to reflect on my own journey through this process and see other people who kind of share the same opinions.”
University UMC, where Talbott began in July, has a variety of ages and cultures represented, he said.
“We have a lot of people who are deeply affected by this issue,” he said. “People are really organizing, really coming together and asking the question, ‘How can we as University United Methodist Church help move this forward?’”
Caitlinn Ott, a member of Derby Woodlawn UMC in Kansas and a candidate for ministry, said she felt bolstered by Leadership Institute.
“It’s really opened my eyes to see people are more on the same page than we thought,” she said. “There is a way to move forward, we just have to figure out what the best way for moving contextually forward is. There is some movement we don’t know about, and there is going to be a way to move forward.”
Ott said she felt like the three days was “a lot of information overload,” but felt better about United Methodists than when it started.
“I can go back and say, ‘We’re not at a standstill,’” she said. “To me, not being at a standstill is what’s energizing.”
A member of Seward UMC in Nebraska, Lynette Broderick said the Leadership Institute left her with possibilities for the denomination.
“I didn’t come here without hope, but I’m leaving with more hope,” she said. “For me, this whole issue (of human sexuality) has always been a really small piece of the pie. But it’s the piece of the pie that now needs to be addressed.”
The Institute included history of Methodist stances on slavery and female clergy, where perhaps the denomination was behind the times compared to the rest of society, Broderick said.
“Now we have this,” she said, “and we need to make a stand.”
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