Never discuss politics or religion!


“Never discuss politics or religion!”

Is that a rule in your family, workplace, or neighborhood? What about in your church? What other topics, like sexuality, or gun control, are on that list of taboos?
How’s that working for you? Probably less than you would like. Most of us long to have deep conversation with people who are important to us, but we are afraid. In this era of polarization in our country and, sadly, our church, we fear the loss of friendships or the backlash from expressing an unpopular opinion. Sometimes we wait until it is too late. There are conversations I wish I would have had with my parents, but everyone was afraid of the pain we might have caused each other.

By now you should have seen an invitation from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and probably from your district superintendent to attend one of a series of events called Table Talks. These events are designed to bring United Methodists of many opinions together for conversation embedded in worship. While the main conversation at these events will be around human sexuality and the current crisis in our church over the full inclusion of GLBTQ people, you will practice skills that will help with difficult conversations on any topic.
I’d like to emphasize a few points about the Table Talks:
  • The experience will be far more valuable if there is a diversity of opinions represented. I fear that people who perceive themselves to be in the minority on the main issue for the day will stay away. We can’t learn to talk about difficult subjects if everyone starts out in agreement. This event is for YOU, whoever you are and whatever beliefs and experiences you bring. Laity or clergy, old or young, whether you see yourself as a leader or not, there is a place for you at the table.
  • There will be some information about the Commission on the Way Forward and the proposals for reshaping The United Methodist Church, but this is not the major focus of the event. The focus is on the conversation itself.
  • There is a complete schedule of Table Talks on the Greater Northwest Area website. You may attend any of the events that are listed. You may have received information only about events in your district, but there may be another one that is closer or a more convenient date for you.
  • If you do not see a date or location that works for you, maybe we can add another time. If you would like to propose a date and place for another event that will work better for you and your church, contact me or your district office. We can’t promise, but we’ll do all we can to make this available to all.
One event is not going to make us all experts at having difficult conversations. But like all worthwhile journeys, each small or large step is important. If the church cannot model this kind of behavior, who will? This is important work; let’s all join in!

Jan Nelson
Jan Nelson is the Lay Leader of the Oregon-Idaho Conference. She was a delegate to the 2016 and 2019 General Conferences and 2016 Western Jurisdictional Conference. Jan is on the Ministry Leadership Team, Jurisdictional and Conference Committees on Episcopacy, and the Holy Land Task Force. She is also Chapter president of the Oregon-Idaho Methodist Federation for Social Action. She lives in Salem, Oregon.