I had the pleasure of serving as your representative to the Missouri Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. This year the theme was "Freed to Lead." We learned that we all can lead; we just don't all lead in the same way.
Friday morning opened with a rousing sermon by Rev. Dr. Antonio Settles from Kansas City. That was followed by Bishop Farr's welcome address and then various business reports. Because of a language change, there was a revote on the constitutional amendment about the treatment of women and girls which had passed in our conference last year but failed when all conferences were tallied.
Next was an address by Bishop Farr about what he called "the elephant in the room," i.e. the LGBT issue. He had just been to a Council of Bishops meeting where they discussed various outcomes of the Way Forward event to be held in St. Louis next February. Information from the Bishops' meeting explaining 3 possible outcomes will come out in July. Of course he didn't say what his preferred outcome would be, but he said he had changed his mind on some things, which made it sound like he might be supportive of LGBT issues.
One of the things emphasized during the conference was "New Places for New People," with a goal to attract people we don't normally attract. Another goal is "Pathway out of Poverty," and they would like every church to partner with a school for a literacy program.
This was the 20th anniversary of the Mozambique Project, and so Friday evening we were treated to a Mozambique-style dinner. They have churches in Mozambique looking for partner churches and young people looking for scholarship support.
Saturday started with various reports: United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, Central Methodist University, etc.
We then met Pastor Alex Garena from an island off of Puerto Rico. His church was badly damaged by the hurricane. Because of the location, it will probably take 5 years for full recovery, especially electricity. There was an offering taken for Puerto Rico, and we are urged to help if we can. Groups are going down there to work, including one from our district this summer.
Saturday afternoon we had workshops, and I was pleased to serve on the panel of the one called "LGBTQ+ - How to Lead your Church Through the Difficult Decision." We had at least 150 attendees, and everyone seemed positive and asked good questions. I talked a little about how we had conversations over several years before we voted to become reconciling. We had no detractors, so I feel it was well-received.
That day also included memorial services, a retirement ceremony, and ordinations.
Sunday morning there was a worship service, more business, appointments of pastors to new assignments, and it was concluded with communion.
All in all it was a very meaningful experience and a God sighting to be among so many United Methodists.