By David Reinholz
May 7-9, 2016 | Portland, Ore.
On the eve of the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church, annual conference lay leaders from across the connection gathered in Portland. Hosted by our friend Mary Foote, Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader, and the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Lay leaders spent two days hearing from Bishops, general board representatives, and church revitalization experts.
The Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders, or AACLL, is a diverse group of people from around the world. We vary in race, ethnicity, politics, geography, accents, and age. Perhaps more striking than our differences are how we are alike. As we sang familiar hymns, prayed together, heard amazing preaching, and learned about issues facing our beloved UMC, we sensed a connection that unites us. We love each other, we love our church, and we love Jesus.
We spent many hours learning about ways to help our local churches “get out of the building” and build relationships with those in their communities. All of us feel called to help our conferences remain vital and become the church God is calling us to be. The consistent message I heard was that the United Methodist Church is more than the issues that divide us. We have important work to do in a world hungry for Wesleyan spirituality. We need to be about transforming lives, one relationship at a time.
For Joan Holms and I the last couple of days were hope-filled and life-giving. We connected with other lay leaders as brothers and sisters in Christ. We may not agree on many important issues, but we all agree that transformation starts with building relationships. I give thanks to God for the relationships we have formed with our other lay leaders from across the United Methodist Church.