I’ve had a few questions on the video where I share my hope for General Conference – that the delegates (of which I’m one) would gather in a spirit of discernment. Most of them have been along the lines of “How do you do that? How do you discern and not just decide?

In the end you do decide. The difference is how you get there.

There are many ways to describe the discernment process. Here is the simplest one I know.

  1. What is the situation? It might be an exciting opportunity, a troubling crossroads, or an anxiety-producing problem. What is it about that situation that brings up those emotions? What is it about it that excites or troubles you?
  2. What does the bible say? What scriptures seem relevant? If you’re having a hard time coming up with scriptures, are there hymns or worship songs that speak to you? A good many of our hymns and songs arise from scripture. Follow the lyrics back to the text.
  3. What did my ancestors do? Are there words, or actions, or sayings from parents, grandparents, and/or those I looked up to? Sometimes those are sources of inspiration and guidance. Sometimes they are less pretty and point to the way you should not go.
  4. Given all that, what is the way that seems towards life? What does that call us to do?

In preparation for General Conference, I’ve studied and talked with others about the scriptural prohibitions on homosexuality and those that address marriage. I’ve pondered the New Testament passages that describe how hard & fast rules regarding things like diet and circumcision were changed in order to broaden the reach of God’s Good News. And over and over, I’ve read about Jesus and wondered how does God bring new things into our world and understandings.

I’ve sat thinking about how I was raised and a story that has shaped me. My grandmother’s aunt, Isabella Thoburn, was one of the first women missionaries for the Methodist Church, sent to India in 1870. Unable to minister to women due to the cultural constraints, her brother who was already working there, rashly wrote to her inviting her to come join him.

“…When my sister promptly accepted my first suggestion that she should come out to help in the mission, I felt something like dismay….A wide door seemed to be opening for her, but for many reasons I shrank from taking the responsibility of bidding her come.”

“It seldom happens that the Church is wise to know her day of visitation. When God would have her move forward and take up some new enterprise; it usually happens that he has to beckon often and long before he is obeyed. In 1859, Dr. Durbin told me that he was astonished and perplexed by the general wish to engage in missionary work found among the young women of the Church. ‘If I wanted fifty young ladies,’ he said, ‘I could find them in a week; but when I want five young men, I must search for them for a year or more.’

“It did not occur once to him, it did not then occur to anybody that the presence of a conviction so strong and general was an indication of the will of God. If six young men felt moved to give themselves to missionary work, they were sent forth with acclamations and followed with the prayers of the whole church; but if six young women were moved in the precisely the same way, their convictions were looked on as a curious phenomenon which did not admit of any satisfactory explanation.” — Bishop James Thoburn, My Missionary Apprenticeship; 1884

I’ve taken all of that into my prayer times along with conversations I’ve had with a wide variety of people who hold a wide variety of perspectives. I head to General Conference believing the One Church plan to be best path forward for the denomination at this point in time. But I go with an open mind and an open heart, ready to listen to the people there and watchful for the movement of the Spirit.

May God lead us beyond our limited vision!


Rev. Mary Huycke is the clergy delegate to General Conference 2019 from PNW and currently serves as the District Superintendent of the Seven Rivers District. Mary has authored several books on leadership and church renewal and is a founding partner of Courageous Space Coaching & Consulting.  She lives in Yakima, Washington with her husband David and their three cats.

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