Two high-profile pastors from the Great Plains Conference, each a member of the UMCNext convening team, said they expect the momentum from their three-day gathering this week to extend into their own annual conference sessions next week.
Rev. Junius Dotson, executive secretary of Discipleship Ministries and a former pastor at Wichita Saint Mark UMC, says he expects a resolution to reach the floor of the Great Plains session, May 30 to June 1 in Topeka.
“Every annual conference obviously is different,” Dotson said. “I think some conferences will see resolutions, I think some annual conferences will go through their Board of Ordained Ministries to make statements. They are going to examine each candidate based on who they are and their character.”
Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, which hosted the UMCNext event, also believes there will be discussion on the floor.
“What we recognize is that our own annual conference is divided. Our
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delegation was divided,” said Hamilton, a clergy delegate veteran who was among those supporting the One Church Plan, which was voted down during the special session in February in St. Louis.
“Part of what the One Church Plan was saying is that there’s room for all of us here,” he said. “It’s not like progressives were saying, ‘You have to be progressive to be a part of the church’ or ‘You have to favor same-sex marriage, or you can’t be a part of us.’”
Hamilton said that the special session resulted in pain and fractured relationships for the denomination, churches and pastors.
“I’m hoping that Annual Conference is a bit of a healing time to say, ‘OK, look, we all are Wesleyan United Methodist Christians. We love Jesus and we love people. We’re trying to figure out how to be the church the best we can in the light of our interpretation of scripture,” he said. “I’m hoping maybe Great Plains can model for other conferences what it looks like to come together and to make room for people who are more traditional, more conservative or more progressive.”
Dotson said many of the influential members of the Great Plains and other conferences were among those in attendance at UMCNext.
“The people that were there were specifically there because they have influence and the ability to organize others,” he said. “I think we’re going to see a grass-roots effort that’s going to mobilize a lot of people at annual conferences across the U.S.”
Dotson said he believes the momentum that started in Leawood will continue.
“I think there’ll be a groundswell in terms of ability to influence,” he said. “I think the energy of everybody at Church of the Resurrection is going to have an impact.”
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