Our retreat is important to attend as what comes out of that will likely guide our report to the Clergy Session of Annual Conference as time is moving on.
We began with a prayer from Homiletics regarding the Newtown massacre was shared.
In preparation for a time with Bishop Jung we reviewed what we were interested in hearing from him:
- How do you understand “clergy covenant”
- Where are the Disciplinary “Orders” in their work
- Do you have a sense of our task (what do you need to know from us)
- Anything further regarding the Judicial Council decision
- Are you familiar with the Love On Trial document
- What are your reflections on imbalances of power in the church
- What is your experience of current clergy morale
- How far will you support a dispute with the present Discipline
- How can a Code of Ethics allow diversity
- The trial court specifically asked that GLBT needs be addressed
- Can we end participation in discrimination or only aspire to it
- What are the politics of our work; the theology of our work
- Is a cost/benefit approach the way to go with discrimination
- Is the locus of theological judgment and practical power with BOOM
- Can covenant be nurturing or only restrictive
- Does the Invitation we are working on predetermine our outcome, are we authorized to go beyond it?
Our conversation with Bishop Jung included:
- How we can come together (lay and clergy) around any issue we face to advance a total ministry of United Methodism in Wisconsin?
- Apology for the division and harm that has happened in our midst
- The limits of the office of Bishop
- Wondering about a larger call of Baptism and Call over appointment rules
- Supervisory system is overseeing our life together as a ministry unit
- Noted that clergy covenant is fragile in its emphasis upon separations and divisions and needs the strength of diversity
- Community has more power and possibility than the Bishop
- A clergy covenant has both formal and relational aspects
- Critical listening is needed to keep majorities from disrespecting minorities
- A clergy covenant is not just for the clergy but also for additional circles of laity, Christianity, and the world
- Unresolved: How will the Bishop’s Office would help resolve and future GLBT appointments, are trials a matter of the last resort
- Clergy Session will start earlier and be longer so more conversation can occur
- Unresolved: How is a “grace margin” of small actions in controversial matters distinguished from “grace”, regardless of the controversy and how does it change our engagement with difficulties
- Working together does not mean full agreement
- There may be ways to work with present clergy but how do we deal with those not yet ordained whom our Discipline won’t allow in
- Is there a common definition of United Methodist Clergy in Wisconsin that we can re-commit to
- If a clergy person desires an appointment (even a self-avowed practicing…) they will be appointed to a church that will accept their ministry
- Doing a case-by-case approach may lead to appointable closeted gay clergy (characterized as “house slaves”) and unappointable out gay clergy (“field slaves”). Is this an acceptable covenant position?
- If passion needed for journeying together, from whence will it arise?
- Church needs to be lived into its next iteration (process) but the Church can’t be closed to the world (action)
- Let us not waste this sacred time of seeking direction
After lunch the Covenant Team continued in conversation:
- Given the congregational emphasis of today’s church, are other clergy extraneous to the work each one does? How might we be connectional again?
- Our tendency is to ignore those who opt themselves out of being a part of the whole ministry of the clergy, to what is there a common accountability?
- Can we re-establish a lost value of common vision?
- Being one church with many locations seems to no longer be the case
- Tendency to claim problems are someone else’s, not mine
- Prejudicial (personal) or Discriminatory (institutional) Behavior (sin)
- Be clearer in the blessing and curse of connectionalism
- Conference theme of Fruits of the Spirit might need emphasis upon humility when speaking of what G*D won’t allow
- Can we disagree with categorical discrimination of the Discipline and implement the Orders ¶305-309 and ¶323
- Practice is theological – overt welcome is needed
- Do personal positions from orthodox to liberation preordain responses to our work?
- If love means asking what is the best that can be done for others, where does their witness fit into a determination of “best”?
- Can we shift from “do what you want” (freedom/hedonism) to “do what matters” (healthy sexuality within any orientation)?
- We tend to argue from our general sense to specific instances and have created a series of theological boxes where no one can prove they care to anyone else and so fears undermine faith
- We have a fear of learning a new thing even though teaching such is a work of the Holy Spirit
- Do we presume the Bible require discrimination and separation?
- Is truthful conversation blocked by discrimination?
- Where does 2 Corinthians 3:6 fit in here, Spirit gives life, letter of law kills and are we talking about a covenant of life and death when we talk about a clergy covenant?
- Do we march or not?
- Be clearer about the blessing and curse of a Discipline
- Who cares?
- As leaders set aside for this task, do we have a stake in this work?
- Language of “incompatibility” turned into legislation is an intertwining of prejudice with discrimination and hard to separate once joined
- The new 2012 Discipline has a 4 page footnote on page 225 about various limits we have placed on ordination over the generations and the tension between specific prohibitions and trust in the “covenant community”