By now, a number of you have read the news release from the Commission on the General Conference recommending a further delay of General Conference until August 2022. The Commission has worked hard over the last several months looking at various options for General Conference. But, in the end, they concluded that there just was no safe and equitable way for the body to meet. COVID and travel restrictions combined with a lack of technology infrastructure in the developing world created an obstacle that just could not be overcome. The General Conference will take some interim actions to approve some administrative changes that allow the UMC general offices to continue operation. For more information on this, I would refer you to: General Conference postponed until 2022 | United Methodist News Service (umnews.org) And, while General Conference has been delayed by another year, that is still no guarantee that it will be able to meet at that time. Logistical issues may still prevent the body from gathering in 2022.
This delay has created time and space for some additional proposals to be created, as well as some additional questions to be raised about the viability of previously-submitted General Conference legislation. And the denomination continues to struggle with financial issues that are impacting all the General Boards and Agencies as well as the Council of Bishops. All of this creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty around the future direction of the UMC.
In the face of such uncertainty, many people have voiced fears and anxiety. Much like the period of time waiting for medical tests to be reported, this time of waiting and not knowing is difficult. But we can continue to serve Christ faithfully during this time.
First, we can refrain from negative speculation about the motives of the Commission on the General Conference. I have been in conversation with colleagues on this Commission as well as the General Council on Finance and Administration. Based on those conversations, I have no doubt that these bodies are acting with integrity and the best of intentions as they seek to cope with unprecedented circumstances.
Second, we can maintain our focus on the three initiatives that our leadership has identified for Bethany to engage in immediately:
- Re-engage Bethany members during and post-pandemic
- Improve family-friendly ministry
- Lead new people in our surrounding community to Experience God’s love, Know Jesus Christ, and Grow in His image.
Teams have been organized and are working to develop and implement initiative plans. These teams will soon be recruiting more people to join them in this work. We believe these initiatives will strengthen Christ’s ministry at Bethany and better prepare us for the future even as we more deeply serve Christ.
Third, we can strengthen our spiritual practices and seek an ever-deepening relationship with God. Strengthening our relationship with God is the best antidote I know to all the anxiety and fear that our current situation can engender. We need to seriously walk in the wisdom of that old saying, “I do not know what the future holds. But I do know Who holds the future.”