UMC Polity Q & A

Based on suggestions from our session at Leadership Institute, this section helps explain the polity of the UMC. We have asked Rev. Amy Lippoldt to help answer these questions. 

Q: If the Protocol for Separation passes at General Conference, will my church need to vote?

A: Nope. The Protocol, as currently written, assumes staying with the United Methodist Church as the default. No entity has to vote unless at least 20% of the membership want to. The first votes will happen at the Central Conference, or for us the USA, the annual conference level. If a vote occurs in an annual conference, 57% of the members present must vote to join a “New Methodist Denomination.” If that mark is not reached, the annual conference stays with the UMC. Once it is known what an annual conference will do, then local churches can vote to do something different than their annual conference. If a church is happy with the annual conference decision to stay or leave, no need to vote! If a church is not satisfied with the decision of the annual conference, the church council will decide if a simple majority or 2/3rd majority will be needed to pass. Such a vote to leave the annual conference would happen at a special called charge conference of the local church. In the case of an annual conference that votes to leave the UMC, any local church can vote to instead stay with the UMC. In the case of an annual conference that stays,

Resource Grant Applications Open!

We have received $250/district in a grant from the Great Plains Conference to help folks across the connection live out the four commitments of UMCNext. Our hope is that this money can kickstart work toward inclusion in your church. Our goal is that this can especially help churches who might be starting this journey toward inclusion. Some ideas might be:

  • curriculum for a Sunday School class or small group (our Resource Team would be happy to help you figure out the best resource for your group)
  • bringing a speaker to your church / class / small group
  • travel expenses to get to the Building Inclusive Church Training

We will evaluate applications at the end of each month until our grant runs out and can’t wait to see how God is calling you to live out these commitments right here in the Great Plains! Encourage your friends all over Kansas and Nebraska to apply.

GP UMCNext Resource Grant Application

Building Inclusive Church Training

We are THRILLED to invite you to the Great Plains Building Inclusive Church Training on Saturday, March 28 from 9:00am-3:00pm at Topeka First UMC. Laura Young, regional organizer for the South Central Jurisdiction for Reconciling Ministries Network, will be leading us. This will be a workshop that you can come to individually or with a group from your church to learn about how to become a more inclusive church no matter your starting point. The day will include:

  • SOGIE (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity & Expression) Training
    • Learn vocabulary and make sure we understand the words we use and fully include all of God’s children with our language. Whether you have been inclusive for a long time or not, language continues to change. This will be a helpful way for every individual and church to grow.
  • Reconciling Process Overview
    • If you are looking for ways for your church to take steps to officially become (and continue to be) a church that is inclusive, you will learn what your church would need to do to become a reconciling congregation with Reconciling Ministries Network.
  • Storytelling Training
    • Each one of us has a story to tell about why we support LGBTQ+ inclusion in the UMC. We will learn how to share our stories in ways that are concise, meaningful, and helpful as we organize toward a more inclusive church. We will practice our stories and leave equipped with our most powerful tool to witnessing to our faith in God as inclusive United Methodists–our story!

The day will include lunch and is FREE to you! We are so grateful to the Great Plains Conference for offering a grant to GP UMCNext that will cover the cost of the day. If you’d like to contribute, there will be a chance to give an offering to Reconciling Ministries Network to support their continued organizing all across the denomination. Sign up below by March 24 and let us know if you have any questions at all.

Sign Up to Attend Building Inclusive Church Training

Repent & Resist: Ash Wednesday 2020

Great Plains Repent and Resist Ash Wednesday is quickly approaching!  Contact Rev. Ashley Prescott Barlow-Thompson with any questions.

The purpose of this event is to repent from and reject the Traditional Plan, resisting evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves, living faithfully as Christians and Wesleyans and affirming the sacred worth of all persons. Repent and Resist: Ash Wednesday 2020 will be marked with prayer, song, and community on February 26th, 2020 from 8 am to 5 pm. This date marks one year since the official passing of the Traditional Plan as well as Ash Wednesday, which begins our traditional season of repentance.

You can sign up to participate or follow the links below to specific Facebook pages districts have made. If there is not a link, the sign up will help connect you with your district.

  • Blue Rivers: Connection Point, Lincoln, NE
  • Dodge City: online
  • Elkhorn Valley: online
  • Five Rivers: Osborn Chapel, BU Campus
  • Flint Hills: Reading UMC AND College Ave UMC
  • Gateway: Gateway District Office and TBD
  • Great West: online
  • Hays: online
  • Hutchinson: online
  • Kansas City: St. Paul’s UMC
  • Missouri River: Saint Paul Omaha Roth Chapel.
  • Parsons: Wesley UMC
  • Prairie Rivers: led by Michelle Reed & Greg Reed, location TBA
  • Salina: led by Stephanie Johannes & Steve Thompson, location TBA
  • Topeka: Topeka First UMC
  • Wichita West and East: East Heights UMC

GP Repent and Resist: Ash Wednesday 2020 Facebook Page

A Pastor’s Change of Heart

Pastor Nick Talbott serves as pastor of University UMC in Salina, KS. Prior to that, he served as pastor of Stockton and Woodston UMCs in the Hays District. 

Easter Sunday 1997: a man with a voice so deep I can still remember the bellowing sound looked my Dad square in the eyes and said, “You are aware the church is open more than one day a year.” We never went back. That was the extent of my childhood church experience. We went on Easter and sometimes Christmas, I knew that Jesus was a baby and that somehow he rose from the dead. I vaguely remember songs with lyrics I didn’t understand, and being asked to eat flesh and blood. Church was creepy, but intriguing.
My Junior year of high school, I started attending a youth group with some of my friends. The church was behind our house and I quickly became a regular attender.  I loved it!  Church was life changing for me, it came at a time in my life I desperately needed it. After years at this church, getting married, and having kids, I had some friction with Southern Baptist Theology. In a conversation with my wife, she informed me that not all churches think the same way. I was floored!
I set on a quest to find a denomination that was more inclusive. I sought a place where my daughter could be everything I could be. That led me to the United Methodist Church. I landed in what we now call a Traditional UMC. The pastor and congregation of this church taught me about open hearts, open minds, and open doors. It was a perfect fit, it was a church that I wanted my kids to grow up in.
I entered the UMC at a very difficult and divisive time. The argument about inclusion was heating up as we entered the 2012 General Conference. I toed the party line of the church I was attending and serving. I believed the Bible was very clear, and I was not going to change. In the next four years I would go from church member, to church employee, to a licensed local pastor.
The 2016 General Conference was instrumental in my change of heart. It was like a soap opera that I could not stop watching. For days I was glued to the computer screen. I noticed my heart began to change. I saw first hand the harm that was being done.  I entered the UMC because it was a place of open hearts, open minds, and open doors. I now saw myself as someone closing doors, and realized I needed to stop.
Since May 20th, 2016, I have been on a journey. I have read, studied, listened, and prayed. I still have more work to do, but I am a Local Pastor in the Great Plains Conference fully committed to seeing the full inclusion of all of God’s people in the UMC. To those I have harmed with my previous understandings, I am sorry and ask for forgiveness. To those still being harmed, know that you are loved and are not alone.

Young Jurisdictional Delegate Points Toward Hope

Abigail Koech is a Jurisdictional Lay Delegate and first alternate to General Conference. She is a member of Lenexa UMC in Lenexa, KS. Abigail is 18 and a freshman in journalism at Johnson County Community College. She plans to transfer to the University of Kansas.

As a young college student who has grown up in the United Methodist Church, I’ve always felt a sense of consistency and routine in church. Since General Conference, there have been conversations of a split. As you probably know, the Protocol of Separation and Grace Through Reconciliation was recently released. Lately, people have had many questions and concerns about how to navigate the current state that we’re in. I’m not a clergyperson, so I don’t know what it’s like to lead a congregation in that way. However, I think being a young person gives me a slightly different perspective because of my role within the church.

I’ve received a few questions from people who are worried about the future of the whole church and how it will affect both clergy and laity. I also don’t believe that there is only a specific group of people that carry these concerns. If there’s one thing we all share, it’s the stress that comes from the state that our church is in right now. It’s apparent that things are becoming more serious, as legislation keeps coming out. I completely understand why people feel like they don’t know where we’re headed; however, it’s important to note that our society is ever-changing. In five years, the church will most likely be unrecognizable. Not only due to a possible schism, but because of generational and political change.

My optimism lies in the fact that this change is occurring as a result of a shifting mindset. Meaning that people are hopefully willing to take on the responsibility of serving justice and equality. Something that we can do to alleviate uneasiness is have faith in our young people. I believe that the future of the church is ultimately determined by the young members of the UMC. Not necessarily because they have potential to be future pastors and lay leaders, or even because I’m young myself. The fact is that younger generations have a different experience and perspective of the church that is very much needed today. I understand that we are in a very challenging time, but I hope that we can find peace of mind in that we have younger generations of competent leaders.

UMC Polity Q & A

Based on suggestions from our session at Leadership Institute, our team has started a new section to our newsletter to help explain the polity of the UMC. We have asked Rev. Amy Lippoldt to help answer these questions. 

Q: How are bishops assigned to a particular annual conference?

A: Bishops, like all clergy, are itinerant and agree to go where they are sent for the good of the whole church. Inside each jurisdiction there is a committee consisting of two General Conference delegates from each annual conference in the jurisdiction. In the case of the South Central Jurisdiction, 24 people. Every year the episcopacy committee asks for some kind of evaluation from the annual conferences and the bishops themselves. In the spring prior to a jurisdictional conference they also talk with each bishop individually about life in the bishop’s current annual conference as well as their hopes or preferences for the future.

At the end of jurisdictional conference in July, after all new bishops have been elected, this same episcopacy committee will meet to decide placements for all the bishops in the SCJ. This process will be run by an outside facilitator and is designed to be as collaborative as possible while looking toward the good of the whole jurisdiction. Placement selection will take several hours. Once decided, the bishops are told individually of their new assignments. The assignments are then announced to the jurisdictional conference. New assignments take place starting Sept 1. Bishops can serve up to 12 years in one annual conference.

In the SCJ this year, we anticipate 3 retirements, leaving open Central Texas, New Mexico/NW Texas, and North Texas. Additionally, Bishop Harvey has been in Louisiana for 8 years and often that is a time that Bishops move to a new conference. Bishop Muller has also been in Arkansas for eight years but only has one quadrennium left to serve before retirement. Bishops Jones, Schnase, Farr, Saenz, and Nunn have only served four years in their current conferences and so are less likely to move this year.
There is a chance that legislation passed at General Conference in May will effect this “normal” course of episcopal assignment, either by direct legislation, or because one or more bishops decides to alter their future plans in response to the actions of GC.

Our current GP representatives are me, Rev. Amy Lippoldt, and Courtney Fowler, first lay delegate to 2016/19 General Conference.

Do you have a question for the UMC Polity Q&A? Send it to Rev. Amy Lippoldt.

LGBTQ+ Missional Leaders Grant

The Great Plains conference has a grant open for “ministries that raise up LGBTQ+ persons as missional leaders in the Great Plains Annual Conference to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” They are actively awarding those grants! If you have received one, we would love to feature your story! Let us know what God is calling you to do. 

Link: LGBTQ+ Missional Leaders Grant Application

Save the Date: Building Inclusive Church Training

Date: Saturday, March 28, 2020. Location: TBD. We received a grant from the Great Plains Conference to help live out the UMCNext commitments. One way we are doing this is to offer a workshop for church leaders who want to help their churches become more inclusive of LGBTQ+ people. It will help give you tools to have conversations in your churches, learn best practices, and also talk about the Reconciling process. We are in the beginning stages of planning, but would love to hear from you if you are interested! Check next month’s newsletter for more detailed information, but don’t hesitate to reach out now.