As Wisconsin delegates to the Special Session of General Conference prepare for the upcoming meeting in St. Louis, February 23-26, we want to highlight their thoughts and insights. This week, Sam Royappa and Gail Burgess weigh in.

Sam Royappa, Clergy Delegate

Whether Regular or Special General Conference, I am reminded of Jesus’ words to Peter, “Upon this rock, I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18-19). The simple interpretation is that we, 864 delegates, don’t build the church on our own. Jesus is the builder and we all assist him in the building process. The focus of Jesus’ mission was Kingdom of God which was reflected through Jesus’s teachings and healings. People of all ages, races and nations were blessed by Jesus’ teachings and healings. These are the two building blocks of a church, kerygma and sozo. As a delegate, I am going to St Louis in February, not just to attend or participate in the Special General Conference, but to share and reflect the kerygma and sozo of Jesus.’ Whether we like it or not, agree or not, there is an impasse in the United Methodist Church about human sexuality with multiple perspectives, based on biblical interpretations and personal convictions.

I am grateful to God for The Council of Bishops and The Commission on A Way Forward for their faithful and collaborative efforts. Apparently, their work has locally and globally stirred the pot precisely because of people’s passion for Jesus’ church and their church as well. My responsibility is to be a faithful delegate in understanding all the petitions that are in “harmony” with the purpose of the Special General Conference. Further, I need to pray over them in the process of discernment coupled with dreaming of a future with hope. Thanks to The Commission on a Way Forward for offering lens, also known as core values to deploy while reading the petitions. They are: Mission, Space and Unity. I pray every day that the delegates including me representing a great movement and a global church would find strength, I mean, God’s strength, in broken places. More than asking prayers for the delegation, I am asking The United Methodists to be people of prayers for the church, The United Methodist Church, the global church in scope and local church in thrust.

Now a days, I often hum one of the favorites of Charles Wesley hymns. “Jesus, united by thy grace and each to each endeared, with confidence, we seek thy face and know our prayer (for the UMC) is heard.” (UMH 561)

Gail Burgess, Laity Delegate

I grew up in a small rural Methodist church here in Wisconsin. One of the things I liked about being a Methodist was the freedom I was given to work things out on my own. It seemed to me that my friends in other churches were given a list of the rules and regulations to memorize and abide by. I was asked to learn about John Wesley and have a basic understanding of the Apostle’s Creed before I was confirmed. (By then I had memorized it and the Lord’s Prayer through osmosis; that happened when you were in church every Sunday for thirteen years.)

In my little church I learned that we are to love one another and that this was the most

important thing Jesus taught us. Jesus gave us an example of someone who cared for everyone. He didn’t say we should love only those who are like us. Jesus accepted people as they were and did not expect them to become something they were not in order to receive his love.

As I have become a “grown up United Methodist”, I believe there is room in our church for everyone. My job is to show Christ’s love to all that I meet, all that I know. It is not up to me to change someone. I may not agree with someone, but I can listen and I can pray that God’s will be done.

When I go to St Louis in a few weeks, I will carry with me 67 years of loving a church that nurtured me, let me make my own decisions and encouraged me to continue growing. My hope is that we can remain a UNITED Methodist church – but not if it means we judge and exclude others. Pray for us, that the Holy Spirit will be among us and guide the decisions we make.