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Next step: Delegates to review concerns and hopes expressed at listening sessions

Next step: Delegates to review concerns and hopes expressed at listening sessions
Attendees discuss thoughts about the UMC at the Irmo listening session Jan. 26, 2020. Photo by Matt Brodie.

By Jessica Brodie

Delegates asked, and South Carolina United Methodists answered. And now those answers will be prayed over and discussed as delegates prepare for General Conference.

Beginning Jan. 5 and ending Feb. 23, listening sessions were held across the state—in St. George, Irmo, Florence and Mauldin, plus one online—all designed to give South Carolina United Methodists the opportunity to voice concerns and share hopes and prayers with delegates to General Conference 2020.

As of the Advocate’s press time, all five listening sessions had been completed.

The experience was “a listening and learning journey,” Delegation Chair Jackie Jenkins said, noting they wanted to hear people’s views on issues facing the denomination.

Each session grouped attendees at tables, where they had the opportunity to discuss and then collectively answer three questions: What are your hopes for The United Methodist Church? What are your main concerns for the UMC? What do you want South Carolina delegates attending General Conference 2020 to know?

“We care,” Jenkins told the Advocate. “We’re genuinely interested in letting them be heard and be part of the process, and we are in constant prayer for discernment.”

Jenkins and the rest of the delegation will be reviewing the answers at their next meeting, slated for March 22, discussing and praying over them as they prepare for the global gathering in May. Elected at Annual Conference in June, the eight lay and eight clergy delegates, plus alternates, will head to the UMC’s General Conference May 5-15 in Minneapolis.

General Conference is held every four years to discuss and vote on petitions and resolutions from budgetary concerns to social issues, such as sexuality, abortion and more. Comprising roughly 1,000 representatives from every conference in the worldwide UMC, General Conference is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. Legislation passed results in revisions to the UMC Book of Discipline (book of law) and Book of Resolutions (policies on social issues).

The listening sessions were well attended, with far more than 1,500 people offering feedback. Nearly 200 attended the St. George session, about 400 at the Irmo session, 400 in Florence and nearly 500 in Mauldin. Thousands viewed the Feb. 23 online session.

The Rev. Ken Nelson, first-elected clergy delegate and the delegation’s episcopal nominee, told the crowd gathered in Irmo Jan. 26 that the sessions are intended to help the delegates better understand South Carolina’s versatile viewpoints.

“Unity may seem farfetched, but unity is what Jesus prayed for us,” Nelson told the crowd.

“Reconciliation begins with each of us.”

The sessions were amicable, focused, respectful and stuck to the main point, which was for people to answer the delegates’ questions—not to debate hot-button topics such as sexuality or schism.

“It’s said we live in an uncertain time with an uncertain future, but I believe God is certain,” Nelson said. “This is God’s church, and we are God’s people.”

He told the Advocate it is better to engage each another one-on-one than in an open forum question-answer presentation.

“When we’re sitting eye-to-eye it’s a lot easier to have respectful conversation with each other,” Nelson said.

Not all the answers from sessions have been compiled, but here is a rundown of those released so far:

What are the proposed reorganization plans for the UMC? View them all at https://www.resourceumc.org/en/content/gc2020-proposed-plans

For more information on General Conference, visit https://umcsc.org/gc2020.

7 Comments

  • attended listerning session in Florence . My take away was that a majority of those attending wanted the Leadership to follow the rules as laid out in our rules . This so called crisis was brought about because of our refusing to follow the rules as laid out WE still have a chance to correct this . follow the rules and if you can not live by the rules then leave .

    amazes me that all of the so called plans are a way to get the grassroot backbone of the church to leave ,Hope the listerners at those sessions heard loud and clear we the majority are fed up with kicking the can down the road . its time to stand up and be counted

    • Very well put. Totally agree. It’s time to take a stand and be counted.

  • This is my fourth encounter with the LGBTQ movement in which I or my friends have suffered. Even though evolutionary biologists and thousands of physicians know that being LGBTQ is a CHOICE, gays have succeeded in aligning themselves with the identities of race, gender and ethnicity of which they are not. Theirs is a choice of lifestyle that is detrimental to society in general, and children in particular. Colin M. Wright, evolutionary biologist at Penn State, and Emma N. Hilton, developmental biologist at the University of Manchester, are only two of many who state, “in humans, reproductive anatomy is unambiguously male or female at birth more than 99.9% of the time…No third type of sex cell exists in humans, and therefore there is no sex spectrum or additional sexes beyond male and female. Sex is binary” In other words, LGBTQ persons can choose to give up their sexual beliefs to adhere to our church discipline if they are truly interested in joining us in the worship of God. Feb. 14th Wall Street Journal

  • How have you suffered?

  • […] Find links to the Feedback from the Listening Sessions here. […]

  • Advocate please at least tell us where or what town/city in SC is the pastor being quarantined and the two UMC members are being treated for the coronavirus!
    Re “The State” newspaper Mar. 12, 2020

  • Jessica,
    Thank you so much for your personal reply. I understand the rational for not not releasing the data and will continue to monitor official governmental sources. Bless you for the great work you do for the UMC in SC!
    Be safe and hope our citizens’ exposure and that negative health impacts will be minimal.
    Again, thank you!
    Lee

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