“You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matt. 24:44)
If you have ever been part of the Scouting movement, you are familiar with the phrase, “Be prepared.” It is the Scout motto. It also comes with Jesus’ call to be disciples. Jesus tells His followers several parables about the importance of being ready, staying alert, being prepared. We have a whole season of the Christian calendar (Advent) that focuses around being prepared for the coming of Christ.
What I am asking about in this article is much more modest, but still important for our life together as United Methodists at this time. For almost two years, our beloved denomination has been praying for and awaiting the work of the Commission on the Way Forward, which was released last month. Some of us have been expecting eagerly, others have been watching curiously, others have been waiting passively. Now the report is here.
But the report of the Commission is only a step along the way to a more decisive destination. The report is an indispensable milestone that we could not be prepared without. Now that the report has been released, we are in a very good position to be best prepared for that decisive destination, which is the Called General Conference of February 2019.
With the report now available, it is time for us to start paying serious attention to what is coming, and to get serious about being prepared for some possibly major changes in our denominational structure within the next six months or so.
Having a Called General Conference is a very unusual event. I certainly do not remember one happening before, nor am I aware of one in our denominational history. That alone should alert us that something significant is on the horizon. The fact that this Called General Conference focuses on our denomination’s position on homosexuality and the level of LGBTQ inclusion creates another layer, for many, of anxiety and urgency. Realizing this, we can choose to remain uninformed and hope for the best. Or, we can choose to be prepared by informing ourselves, so that we are more ready for whatever may happen.
In the Alexandria District, every charge conference this fall will have a component that is designed to help inform leaders in every local church about the Called General Conference, its purpose, what proposals are being considered, and what we can do in our settings. There are three options that have been put forward by the Commission as possible outcomes for the General Conference. All three are available for anyone to read and review. Here is the link: Way Forward Report-English version. You may want to study these plans, discuss them with others, and make recommendations or responses to the General Conference delegates. (A list of the Virginia Conference delegates to the General Conference can be found here: VA Delegation List.)
I hope you will be proactive and learn more using this information, because a big part of being prepared is being informed. At every charge conference, I will come prepared to engage in this conversation, though I have no illusions that we will be able to finish it at a charge conference. Nor do I have any illusions that the Called General Conference will finalize all the answers about possible changes. But, it is very possible that decisions will be made that could impact every local church and pastor. I hope none of us are caught unawares. Now is the time to start the process of being prepared.
Grace and Peace,
For more information and further Way Forward resources, please visit our Way Forward page.