By David Farnsworth, Co-Facilitator of DSC Way Forward Communications
Congratulations to the members of the Annual Conference for forming ten teams to work on the way forward for the people and churches of the Desert Southwest Conference. The work of these teams is a tremendous job that is equally exciting, creative, and hope-filled, just as much as it is a comprehensive, prayerful, and meticulous job to be done.
To allow space and resources for a diverse group of team members, the Desert Southwest Conference provided each team with collaboration tools and video-conferencing licenses so that distance and finance do not inhibit their work or keep anyone from participating. Updates from the teams are available through multiple channels, including the Conference newsletter. You can also find them at your leisure by visiting www.dscumc.org/way-forward. There, you will find a way to contact each team, and if you find that you are particularly passionate or knowledgeable about any of the team objectives, please sign up by visiting https://dscumc.org/way-forward/. Descriptions of the teams are listed below.
The goal of this group is to help ground the work of the DSC Way Forward in a robust Wesleyan theology which ties together growth in Christian personal piety with the actions leading to social holiness. We will work to develop a theological foundation that is grace-filled, inclusive, and aids us in the work of transformational justice.
The primary goal of this team is to craft a compelling narrative that:
- Explains what is happening in transparent and accessible terms.
- Invites people to join in work that is happening; share what they are doing in local churches and ministry settings; informs people about the various ways they can participate in ongoing Way Forward work.
- Captures how this unique DSC story is part of God’s ongoing work of transformation as we make disciples of Jesus Christ.
This task group gathers and shares information with churches, church leaders, and members about the discussions and actions of groups after the Annual Conference. This information is crucial to share so that churches, church leaders and members can understand their place in the context of the movement and become equipped in decision making for their next steps in affiliating with the church in whatever form emerges.
It is easy for churches to feel isolated and to struggle with expanding their discussions. This team will look for ways to encourage churches to join in a conversation with other United Methodist churches and with other organizations and other faith communities. The goal is to increase understanding and to build relationships.
Amicable Separation Team
This team will focus on the future possibility of an amicable separation of the factions in The United Methodist Church. If this becomes an option for our churches or our conference, this team will guide us.
The Judicial Council decisions in late April permit a church to disaffiliate from the UMC for reasons of conscience related to issues of human sexuality or the actions or inactions of its Annual Conference related to that topic. The terms of disaffiliation are to be established by the Conference board of trustees with the advice of the cabinet and others. But we also need the input of other passionate constituents. WesPath developed a standard disaffiliation agreement form. Now we have the responsibility to determine if we want to add anything to it and to develop a process checklist. It is a significant responsibility that includes not only procedural matters but also matters of compassion to ensure that all church members are cared for, not just those wanting to disaffiliate.
The Finance Team will identify possible financial challenges and resources to meet the needs facing the Desert Southwest Conference and our churches in light of the ruling of General Conference 2019. Some potential funding needs might be for meeting expenses within the Conference, Jurisdiction, and nationally, where dreaming and planning might take place. Other requirements might be resources for a new structure, attorney fees, and assisting churches who feel they must disaffiliate.
This team is seeking to build a network of attorneys across the Desert Southwest to assist our communities as we explore options of best ways to move forward for local churches. We need people with contract law expertise that are willing to assist in this effort. Please contact John Doller via email at email@example.com. The goal of this team is to identify legal matters related to the DSC Way Forward, considering such items as:
- Which legal matters and Disciplinary sections are the most significant concern?
- What is the legal status of the Annual Conference and the local church? Are they distinct or separate organizations or corporations?
- Is the trust clause still relevant and enforceable?
- Which Book of Discipline sections or paragraphs should be changed?
The Spirituality task group creates and shares resources that inform and enhance our spiritual life as we move through this season of change. As we make decisions and go through processes and procedures, they remind us to continually connect to God and move through this time deeply grounded in Christ.
Dreaming a New Methodism Team
For decades The United Methodist Church in the United States has been in decline. We know that our current form of doing ministry isn’t working. The recent action of General Conference, and the harm that it causes has presented an opportunity to dream a new Methodism. How will we describe this new church? What of The United Methodist Church will we bring with us? What do we need to leave behind? We know we want a church that is grounded in our Wesleyan theology of grace. We want a church that is deeply rooted in our baptismal promise to resist evil, injustice and oppression, consistent with the law of love and affirming of the sacred worth and ministry of all people, regardless of age, gender, gender identity, race, nationality, sexual orientation, socio-economic level, or physical or mental ability/disability. We are determined to do no harm to any of God’s children. We are committed to a vibrant church that is uncompromising on Jesus’ commandment to love God and neighbor. How will such a church be shaped? It’s time to dream.
As is the case with all DSC Communications, churches may copy and paste this text into their newsletter or any other communication channels that your church or ministry uses. Images about Annual Conference and the DSC Way Forward teams are available for download and reuse at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dscumc/.