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Atnip: Encouragement From the United Methodist Church General Conference 2016

Congregational Outreach Director

Texas Impact staff will be in prayer for the United Methodist General Conference May 10-20 in Portland Oregon. General Conference is made up of almost 900 delegates from around the world, and is the official policy-making body of the United Methodist Church that meets once every four years. I had the honor of attending the 2012 General Conference in Tampa, Florida and know that the delegates, volunteers, staff and advocates could certainly use prayer during long days full of difficult debates regarding church law, budgets, structures and resolutions. 

As I was watching the opening plenary on Tuesday, I especially appreciated the words of Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the UMC General Commission on Religion and Race. She was providing an overview for healthy conversations at General Conference, but her words are relevant to Texans of faith as we work in the public policy realm and in our local communities.

Her 10 minute talk may be found here. The full session is available here.  

My takeaways were her highlighting the important work of congregations in mission, justice and ecumenical work and the work of determining what is "right and good," which requires us fully understanding the needs of our local communities. We far too often find ourselves staying within our places of comfort and convenience rather than working to understand the needs of all in our communities. Texas Impact has a tool for congregations or small groups to better understand our communities with the Texas Impact Treasure Hunt.

Hawkins also challenged congregations that there is no better time to be engaged in this work than now. In an era fraught with division, distrust and fear throughout the world, congregations are charged to "seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to do justice, show mercy and walk humbly with our God." She goes on to challenge us to build relationships with those of different cultures, theological and political persuasions, noting that we do not need to agree, or change our minds, but to "see the goodness of God in one another." 

As an organization encouraging congregations to participate in the public policy process, we also recognize the heightened sense of disagreement and division in our communities. I believe that our communities and political realms would be well served by congregations and people of faith having and facilitating conversations that cross gender, cultural, political and theological lines and by recognizing the goodness of God in one another, even when we disagree. 

So, my hope for today, is that we will all be in prayer for the United Methodist General Conference through the conclusion of their event, but more, that we will seek to participate fully in our communities by learning the needs of our local communities and engaging in conversations with a wide range of constituencies about how we can work together to better transform the world.