Pathways II Commission Update (February 2020)
In the fall, Bishop Bob Farr convened an 18-person Pathways II Commission with the purpose of working on a path forward for the Missouri Conference in light of the denominations ongoing struggle around contextualized ministry and human sexuality. The Commission’s task is to answer two questions:
- Is there a place for me in this conference?
- How do we multiply our impact and ministries to bring more people to Jesus Christ in whatever missional context your church resides?
The Commission met on October 30, December 17 and February 3. To read the previous Pathways Commission update from November, click here. The commission has plans to meet at least two more times before annual conference on February 27 and April 21.
As the commission began their work, Bishop Farr, together with the Cabinet, Mission Council and Commission conveners, determined that they needed to know how many of our clergy would need to serve in what one might call a fully inclusive system (open to LGBTQ marriage and ordination) and those who feel they could only serve in a traditionalist system. In order to determine how many would be willing to serve in either system, a rough survey was conducted among actively appointed clergy and laity (those laity assigned to churches). It is important to note that this was a litmus test only. The informal survey was conducted by District Superintendents across Missouri’s nine districts and at least 80 pastors under appointment did not complete the survey.
Regarding the Way Forward Indicator Survey Results, 516 eligible clergy completed the survey including certified lay ministers (laity), licensed local pastors, provisional and ordained clergy and retired clergy currently serving.
- 200 pastors would want to serve in a fully traditional church.
- 158 pastors would serve in a fully inclusive church.
- 158 pastors would serve in either.
The current plan for the Commission’s work is to be presented to the Mission Council, who would, pending approval, present it to the annual conference in June. Since that initial engagement, new developments, namely the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation and Restructuring was announced. As Bishop Farr stated in his January 3 letter, the protocol is offered in service to the delegates who will gather in Minneapolis for the 2020 General Conference in May. General Conference remains the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. Ultimately, it will be up to the delegates at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis in May.
Understandably, this new development, in addition to the release of the Advance Daily Christian Advocate which contains other legislative proposals to go before the General Conference, has impacted the work of the Pathways II Commission. The Commission acknowledges the protocol and other legislative proposals but remains focused on conversation around the two questions posed by the Bishop in order to offer the Missouri Conference a way forward. Commission members have created a covenant that guides their work which includes remaining focused on serving God and the annual conference, not ourselves. As the members of the Commission gather from diverse areas and differing opinions, community building has been a priority as well as learning time centered on The Anatomy of Peace, a guide to reconciliation.
“In a short time, it is inspiring to see how leaders in our Conference with differing opinions can sit together, listen to one another and be willing to explore any and all opportunities,” said Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader. “We remain focused on the common shared goal of helping others know the love of Jesus Christ and understanding that we can accomplish this call in different ways.”
If you and your local church are in need of resources to begin a conversation, visit: https://www.moumethodist.org/localchurchresources for books, holy conversation guides and more. General Conference legislation can be found at: https://www.moumethodist.org/legislationupdates.
Bishop Bob Farr
Rev. Andy Bryan, Chair, Pastor, Manchester (St. Louis), Co-convener
Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader, Woods Chapel (Blue Springs), Co-convener
Rev. Ron Watts, Pastor, La Croix (Cape Girardeau), Co-convener