The following was prepared by the team of 11 people from the California-Pacific Conference who attended the UMC Next event.
On May 20-22, a team of 11 people from the California-Pacific Annual Conference met in Kansas City, KS for UMC Next, a gathering of 600 United Methodists from the 54 annual conferences of The United Methodist Church in the U.S. This event brought together United Methodist laity and clergy who oppose the Traditional Plan passed at General Conference 2019 to discuss possible futures for the people of The United Methodist Church. You can read more about UMC Next here.
As the California-Pacific team, we affirm the broad commitments agreed upon at UMC Next for a future Methodism:
- to passionately follow Jesus;
- to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves;
- to reject the Traditional Plan;
- to work to eliminate the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline and to affirm, celebrate and join in ministry alongside LGBTQIA+ people.
The attendees of UMC Next also agreed upon the contextual nature of a new Methodism. In our California-Pacific conference, the above-named commitments are not wholly new, but are ongoing. Our future in Cal-Pac is unique. As a Cal-Pac team, we offer the following reflections.
We envision that a new Methodism in our conference involves the full inclusion and celebration of LGBTQIA+ clergy, laity, and community. This means continuing the work already begun of dismantling homophobia, transphobia, and other oppressions in our institutions and congregational cultures. Not all churches and communities in our conference are in the same place, or have done the same work, on LGBTQIA+ inclusion. An authentic, successful transition to a new Methodism embraces and addresses this reality. We suggest that any transition plans for building a new Methodism ensure that every member has a voice which is heard through open and transparent conversations. Our desire is that as plans and strategies are developed, they will be the best reflection and celebration of our conference.
The success of our forward movement also entails taking our diversity into account. The California-Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is one of the most diverse annual conferences in the U.S. – diverse in race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, language, national origin, theology, citizenship status, and more. This diversity is a gift and a strength for our current moment. Any plans for the future must engage the diverse people and contexts of our conference. These plans must also attend to already present systemic injustices around race, class, language, ability, and more, or else this “new thing” risks further institutionalizing white supremacy and oppression. We refuse the politics that pit liberation for one group of people against liberation for another; instead, we work for the liberation of all.
As part of the Western Jurisdiction, we claim that body’s vision to be “a home for all God’s people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation.” Our ministry and witness in the West is distinct but not separate from other regions of The UMC. We hope that as the California-Pacific Annual Conference lives into a new movement, we will remain connected to those beyond the West who also seek to be the inclusive, loving, welcoming church, and will work together for a connectional social witness, missional service, and support for seminaries and young people.