November 7, 2016
STATEMENT ON SUMMIT GATHERINGS
November 7, 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At the 2016 session of the Susquehanna Annual Conference, Bishop Jeremiah Park addressed the United Methodist Church's struggle over issues surrounding the Church's relationship with LGBTQ individuals, specifically same-gender marriage and LGBTQ ordination. Bishop Park shared his commitment to unity, invited the church to be patient as the General Conference requested "Bishop's Special Commission" does its work, and pleaded with the church to pray without ceasing. At the same time, Bishop Park shared his intention to pull together a gathering of clergy and laity from across the Susquehanna Conference who would explore ways to model Christ-like relationships in the midst of difficult issues, and offer opportunities for conference laity to engage in these important, faithful and challenging conversations.
This past summer, Bishop Park asked Rev. Beth Jones and Rev. Larry Leland to provide leadership for this Human Sexuality Summit, the membership of which was nominated by the cabinet and consists of 12 clergy and laypersons from various places in ministry and on the theological spectrum, including members of the LGBTQ community. In September and October, Summit members gathered for dinner around a common table, and conversation about their backgrounds and experience, as well as their hopes and dreams for the Church. Participants have been grateful for the opportunity to be in relationship and feel heard, even while acknowledging deep disagreement on how to live out our faith in Jesus with regard to human sexuality.
In the coming months, Summit members will continue to meet, hoping to move on two fronts. First, members will continue to meet for the purpose of listening to one another's stories, modeling Christ-like conversation, and praying for the Church that we all love. Second, members are working to provide a series of gatherings for laity similar to the clergy conversations of last year, possibly providing resources for local churches to use as well. The first of these gatherings will be held on Sunday, December 4th from 3 - 5pm at Hollidaysburg UMC in the Altoona District. There will be three additional gatherings around the conference (listed at the end of this letter). The purpose of these gatherings is to come together as faithful, prayerful disciples of Jesus Christ to listen and share with one another on the issues of Human Sexuality that face our denomination. It is not to argue or persuade others of our views, but rather to model Christ-like conversations even in the midst of differences.
We continue to be humbled and grateful for the chance to walk together in this journey. We ask for your prayers as we continue to gather. We ask for your prayers for Rev. Dr. Thomas Salsgiver, and the other members of the Commission on a Way Forward. We ask you to join us in seeking God's face and yearning for God's will to be done in the United Methodist Church.
Rev. Beth Jones and Rev. Larry L. Leland, Jr.
Human Sexuality Summit Conveners
Sunday, December 4, 2016
First UMC, Hollidaysburg UMC (Altoona District)
801 Allegheny St, Hollidaysburg, PA 16648
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Faith UMC, Montoursville (Williamsport District)
700 Fairview Dr., Montoursville, PA 17754
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Shavertown UMC (Scranton Wilkes-Barre District)
163 N Pioneer Ave, Shavertown, PA 18708
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Harrisburg District (Location TBA)