Issuing a Challenge
“This is not the church I know and love.” The sentiment was echoed over and over by students at our Wednesday worship service. It was the day after 2019 General Conference ended. The Pace Center - VCU’s Wesley Foundation where I serve as Campus Minister had its largest attendance in years. Students who unabashedly display Queer Pride pins on their backpack stood side-by-side with students who are unsure of God’s view on homosexuality and they remembered their baptism. They remembered that they were all precious children of God, wonderfully and beautifully made. A few weeks earlier, many of them attended our leadership retreat. When asked to describe “Who are we Methodists?” the consensus was “People of Grace.” On that day after General Conference 2019, these students, no matter their background, did not recognize their church.
I don’t know what the future holds for the United Methodist Church, the question saddens me and breaks my heart. I want to bury the question 10 feet deep and hope that it will just go away. Full Confession: I have not followed most of the post-General Conference talk in detail because I am in denial of the whole situation. I don’t recognize my church either.
Do you know others, like me, who have had their head in the sand? Do you know lay or clergy who are deeply faithful people, who believe in a church that is representative of God’s grace-filled Kingdom, but have not followed the details of what annual conference has in store for one reason or another?
If so, I issue a challenge. Send the slate prayerfully discerned by “Virginia Methodists for a New Thing” to AT LEAST five people who will be voting at the Virginia Annual Conference. Why? Because it makes a difference.
Before pursuing ordained ministry, I served as a political consultant. Besides party affiliation, the number one influencer of a person’s vote is an informed voter who they know and trust. An informed voter is someone who follows the issues carefully and no matter how disgusted they are with the state of their government (or their church) they are committed to being engaged.
If you are reading this, you are an informed voter. You are the trusted friend (or maybe even pastor) of a voter at Annual Conference. And you hold immense sway over their decision.
So take the challenge. Have a coffee, make a call, send a personal email to AT LEAST five people voting at Annual Conference by Monday, June 17. Hand them a copy of the slate, encourage them to bring it to annual conference, and share with them why you will be voting for members on it. Tell us who you are reaching out to, so we can identify groups of voters who aren’t being reached.
The numbers don’t lie. 444 clergy have declared their support of the “Virginia Methodist for a New Thing” movement. Last year clergy delegates needed about 330 votes to be elected. Even by a conservative estimate, if 444 clergy vote the top 11 nominees on this slate, there will be one round of voting. Yes, just one and it will be done.
On the other hand, laity numbers are much more unknown. Laity are just as committed and faithful but are less likely to follow all the nuance of Annual Conference. It is vital that you, informed voter, share this slate with laity who are receptive to the vision of a church for all. Don’t know if they are receptive? Tell them anyway. You hold more sway than you think. This is the time, now is the hour, to use your power of being an informed voter. This vote is truly ours to lose, so let’s not. Have hesitations about the slate? So do I – but I point you to Rev. David Hindman’s thoughtful piece.
What is the future of the United Methodist Church? I don’t know, but there is a small, tiny flame inside of me that is excited. Excited by the new thing that I deeply believe God is doing in and among us, so that we can truly be the Grace-filled Body that Christ modeled so very well. Let us challenge each other to elect members of the Virginia General Conference Delegation who share this same vision.
1) Share the slate with at least five people who will vote at Virginia Annual Conference (lay and clergy).
2) Tell us who you are sharing with, so we can identify groups of voters not being reached.
3) Pray that no matter who is elected, they may join in the New Thing God is doing in our midst.
Rev. Katie B. Gooch is a former political consultant who became disheartened with the fight over red and blue and answered a call to fight for the Kingdom through ordained ministry. Originally from Oklahoma, she now calls Richmond, VA home. She has served as the Executive Pastor of Reveille UMC and is currently relaunching the United Methodist campus ministry at Virginia Commonwealth University where she witnesses God doing a new thing each and every day.