This month’s Circuit Rider includes a report from Annual Conference by our lay members, Jane Stricklin and Maddie Steinway.  It’s a long report – but then, it was a long conference.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read it.  It’s important to know how decisions are made in a “Connectional” Church.

It’s important to know, for example, that the motto, “Open minds, open hearts, open doors” is a goal for which we strive every day.  Ours is not a Church that allows one figurehead at the top to decide some people aren’t allowed to receive Holy Communion or funeral services.  Instead, we “conference” together: clergy and lay, gay and straight, praying and listening to discern the will of God for the Church at this point in time.  Our Social Principles include this statement: “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.” (¶161G)

It’s important to know that we care a lot about health care for all people, and that our Social Principles even state, “Health care is a basic human right….We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care.” (¶162V)  Care for all God’s people, regardless of age or economic condition, is a basic value in our denomination.  It’s not just for the few and the fortunate.  Annual Conference spent a lot of time struggling with a healthcare proposal this year, and when it became evident we weren’t ready to make the fairest decision, we stopped pushing, and gave ourselves more time to think and pray.

It’s important to know that our system relies on churches and pastors to be open to a rearranging of relationships—that “itineracy” serves the whole Church, not just you and me.  Pastors are appointed for the sake of the Mission, and each fresh combination of members and ministers brings new possibilities for the kingdom.  I feel very fortunate to have been reappointed to Chatham UMC for another year.  You have no idea how much I love you and how glad I am to serve with you here!  And when the time comes that I am reappointed elsewhere, we will all commit to embracing change, welcoming new friends, and looking forward to the new things God can do with new relationships.

                  Today I am thankful for you—and thankful to be United Methodist!