Introduction by Patrick Scriven
Last week I had the opportunity to spend a day with our Pacific Northwest Delegation to the 2019 General Conference. As an observer, I was impressed to see how seriously this group took their work. As they considered the legislation before them, they sought not only to resolve and express their own faithful positions, but also to generously understand how other people might arrive at different conclusions.
For this (re)introduction to the delegation, I asked the members to answer one of three questions that you’ll find in the headings below. Perhaps indicative of the group, you’ll no doubt notice that most of them chose to answer the second question involving their hopes for this special session of General Conference.
Over the weeks between now and General Conference, our delegation has committed to produce weekly posts endeavoring to illuminate their work, motivations, or even to answer some questions they are hearing. We published the first post from Rev. Mary Huycke earlier this week.
For more information about the upcoming General Conference, visit: greaternw.org/gc2019
1. Why is the Church important to me?
The Rev. Sharon Moe, Pastor, First UMC, Tacoma, WA
Reserve Clergy Delegate to General Conference 2016, 2019
The Church, and especially The United Methodist Church, is important to me as the vehicle to act and share the Gospel of Jesus. The Good News, as it is described in Luke 4:18-19:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. God has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (NRSV)
The Church and its faith communities live out the Gospel mandate of release, recovery, liberation and Jubilee, all of which add to the well-being of life and all that lives, including the earth itself. If the Church is faithful to the Divine Call to justice, love, and compassion, the world has a chance to survive and live, that Grace might abound.
The Rev. DJ del Rosario, Elder, Pacific Northwest Conference
First-Reserve Clergy Delegate to General Conference 2016, 2019
The Church is important to me because of the community of faith that raised me. They were there for me when I had deep questions about my faith as a teen. In the moments when my beloved grandparents died, the church surrounded me with love and patience.
I can’t name one isolated reason why the Church is important to me. Instead, I can share with you that a lifetime of growth and care have taught me that it’s okay to be who I am in a community that values silliness as much as they value sacredness. I find myself as a person who continues to grow, struggle and question. The Church continues to be a place that is organic enough to also grow, struggle and question.
2. What is your hope for General Conference?
Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, Lay Member, Trinity UMC, Seattle, WA
Lay Delegate to 2016, 2019 General Conference and Head of Delegation
My greatest hope for General Conference is for our global church to embrace different sexual and gender identities as part of the fullness of God’s creation. God is calling us to diverse, authentic Christian community and anything other than full inclusion falls short.
Alongside this hope is another about how we are together in St Louis. Our process allows for a small number of delegates to obstruct the work of the entire body. The 3-day special session requires us to work collaboratively and efficiently. We need to allow time for debate and decisions, but more importantly we need to make space for the Spirit to move among us. I invite us to call one another into a higher way of being, that we might hold each other accountable for this moment in the long arc of The United Methodist Church and God’s Church on Earth.
The Rev. Mary K. Huycke, Seven Rivers Missional District Superintendent
Clergy Delegate to General Conference 2016, 2019
Beyond a specific outcome, I want us all to walk away from General Conference having experienced the movement of the Spirit and feeling like we made progress towards freeing ourselves and our congregations for greater life-giving ministry. I hope we can set our egos aside and be curious and creative with one another as we imagine God’s next future for us. If there was ever a moment to embody the best of what it means to be Christian community, this is it.
A. Skylar Bihl, Lay Member, First UMC, Olympia, WA
Lay Delegate to General Conference 2020; Support Team 2019
Singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer sings, “the shadows of this world will say, there’s no hope, why try anyway? Every kindness, large or slight, shifts the balance toward the light.” While that sounds cliché and overly simple, my hope for February’s Special Conference is that we might remember to be kind to one another. I hope that in the midst of our politicking, we might be reminded of the love of God in each other; that we might look across our tables and see each other as the beloved children of God that we are, and that this remembering helps us listen with hearts open to the movement of the Holy Spirit amongst us.
The Rev. Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, Lead Pastor, Issaquah Faith UMC
Clergy Delegate to General Conference 2020; Western Jurisdictional Delegate – 2016
My hope for General Conference is that as delegates, we can approach one another with humility and compassion, repent of our desire to “win” an argument or get our own way, listen for the guidance of the Spirit, and be open to what God is doing in the Church. I pray that we can engage our conferencing in such a way that we witness to the love and generosity of Jesus to each other and the world; and that the end result is a more Spirit-filled, welcoming, hopeful church for the future.
The Rev. Gregg Sealey, Inland Missional District Superintendent
First-Reserve Clergy Delegate to General Conference 2020; Support Team 2019
My deepest hope for General Conference is that we might actually BE the church, witnessing to our faith in the midst of a broken and divided world in a way that is a foretaste of God’s justice, mercy and grace. Our entire world is filled with polarization and violence whereby people no longer see one another as children of God but instead merely as obstacles to overcome. I want to engage others who are passionate about their ideas in ways that are constructive and life giving. I long for beauty to emerge out of the mess we find ourselves in. May we recover our sense of humanity by deeply connecting across divides in ways that mirror God’s divine mercy and grace.
3. Why were you called to serve as delegate?
Brant Henshaw, Alaska
Reserve Lay Delegate to General Conference 2016, 2019; First-Reserve to 2020
The role of General Conference Delegate called to me from my desire to see the work of the delegation taken seriously beyond the event itself and to see that it represents the full breadth of our Annual Conference. I have opinions but am not an ideologue. I value respectful, pragmatic solutions to divisive situations. I want our small but talented delegation to be as effective as possible and have clear roles and expectations in order to best serve the Conference.