November 26, 2012

Agreements:

 We set Feb. 3-5, 2013, as the dates for a retreat.

The retreat will take the place of our previously scheduled Jan. 28 team meeting. The rest of our schedule will be considered at the retreat. At this point, our schedule remains:

  • Monday, Dec. 17 – team meeting at Conference Office, Sun Prairie (to include 45 minutes with Bishop Jung)
  • Sunday-Tuesday, Feb. 3-5 – retreat at site to be determined
  • Monday, Feb. 25 – team meeting
  • Monday, March 18 – team meeting
  • Monday, April 22 – team meeting
  • Monday, May 20 – team meeting
  • June 7-10 – Annual Conference

Narrative:

We opened with Morning Prayer from the Upper Room Worshipbook: Music and Liturgy for Spiritual Formation.

Resource materials from other conferences and the Circuit Rider were received.

  • Covenant documents from the Indiana and Virginia Annual Conferences
  • A recent Circuit Rider article by Jack Jackson

Reflecting on our respective connections with the conference, we noted that:

  • Whatever covenant we had some time ago, it took only relatively short time for it to become undone.
  • Setting blame, “You broke the covenant”, is less helpful than recognition that it is broken.

Consideration was given to working on something more provisional than concrete to report for implementation. We can  begin to start a process that might grow back into an understanding of a common bond.

Our own scheduling conflicts brought a conversation regarding the honoring of multiple covenants. (e.g. the work of the church, the work of a conference team, and/or personal life, illness, family, etc.)

Regarding our Book of Discipline, it was noted that we have successfully taught that to be a person of good faith, covenant means nothing more than obedience to the current Discipline. One response to this was, “We are bound by more than the Discipline. We believe our driving principle is that we are called to obey the command to love. We are called into a community that is guided by the commandment to love. Period. No categorical exclusions.”

We wrestled for a while with the implications of working to change the Discipline vs. living by the letter of the Discipline because that’s what we now have vs. civilly disobeying the Discipline on grounds of injustice to those whom it excludes. (Note: as is usual with these reports this is an oversimplification of the conversation.)

We discussed how conference clergy are and are not a tribe. We are not born into it; we are voted into it. But we make covenantal statements upon joining. To maintain our presence in that community, many of us hide something, live a divided life, that has health implications for ourselves and for the Conference.

A question was raised: If early Methodists had an organizing question of, “What do I need to do to flee from the wrath to come?”, what is our organizing question in 2012? This may point to a shape of a covenant for this day

How do we love each other? – became the framing question for the remainder of our conversation.

Some responses:

  • We don’t vote on each other
  • We remember that we enter into ordination on our knees, emptied out, waiting for the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is sealed in us for the work of clergy in the world. When we categorically limit someone’s participation (e.g. GLBTQI), we are limiting God.
  • We look at everybody on a case-by-case basis. We end discrimination of categorical exclusion of people.
  • We hold each other accountable in the midst of great diversity. That accountability is not by “my accounting” but out of consideration for individual diversity.
  • We trust, without fear of reprisal from colleagues. (“Perfect love casts out fear.”)
  • “I will not let fear determine my investment in the community. I understand accountability as opening up to the presence of others who can help us walk with our better selves.”
  • We celebrate, don’t tolerate, our differences in personality.
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