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  • Writer's picturePastor Paul Harris

Finally, A Way Forward

The United Methodist Church is adapting to its new reality and living into a very promising future. Those are my headline words as an unofficial online observer of the postponed 2020 General Conference just completed in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kim Carroll prepared an excellent presentation which was shared with interested persons at Manchaca UMC during the Sunday School hour on May 5, 2024. And we had a good Q&A session following the presentation. If you have more questions or if you missed the session, your church staff is open and happy to receive your questions. We will do our best to provide an explanation with an applicable resource to support the answer.

Adapting to a New Reality

It was apparent that this conference would be different than those held in the recent past. As one Rio Texas delegate said on social media, "I knew that this conference would be more collaborative when we agreed to the standing rules for the conference and the scheduling of initial consent agendas in several hours instead of taking several days to accomplish."

One of the new realities for this General Conference was a more diverse delegation and their spirit to enact changes to the Social Principles and Book of Discipline. Important legislative proposals were passed involving Regionalization of the UMC, reversal and removal of language related to a prohibition of LGBTQIA+ clergy ordination and clergy presiding at weddings for LGBTQIA+ persons, removal of "incompatible" language related to human sexuality that we have argued about since 1972, and adoption of a new Social Principles document for the UMC.

To this observer, a new reality was very evident when the General Conference adopted the fiscal budget for the next four years at a greatly reduced level compared to the last. Local churches will see relief in the financial support requested from the general church. If apportionment collections improve in the next two years, then the General Church budget may be expanded in 2027.

Delegates mandated that Jurisdictions will elect fewer bishops to service. The South Central Jurisdictional meeting later this year may make changes in Annual Conference boundaries to adapt into this new reality. Likely, Bishop Schnase will continue to supervise both the Rio Texas Conference and the New Mexico Conference. Newly elected Bishop Laura Merrill will likely supervise Arkansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma Indian Mission Conferences. And it is possible that Bishop Ruben Saenz, Jr will supervise a joint conference of North Texas, Central Texas, and Northwest Texas Conferences.

A Very Promising Future

A more diverse delegation means that as Annual Conferences elect more diverse delegates to General Conference, we may actually make some progress in our local churches. Bishop Schnase has invited us to adapt to a more expansive theology of grace in which all of our churches recognize inclusion, equity, and diversity in our church and surrounding community.

In regard to equity and diversity, when Bishop Bickerton presented the gavel to Bishop Malone in the change of leadership of the UMC Council of Bishops, a very visible and promising change occurred in the episcopal leadership team. 

I am hopeful about the direction and mission of the United Methodist Church as we share a new reality. May the Lord God continue to bless our leaders, delegates, laity and clergy, and all who follow Jesus in the making of disciples for Christ and the transformation of the world.

Pastor Paul

Other Resources

Click here to see resources and recaps from the Rio Texas Conference

Click here to see a Legislative Recap from the General Conference

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