What I heard at Table Talks 2.0
What I heard at Table Talks 2.0
Hundreds of people from around our conference and the Greater Northwest Area gathered in the last few weeks for Table Talks 2.0. Led primarily by the district superintendents, all the events included sharing of information from the General Conference session in February, small group discussion, and worship. Some gatherings were as small as 20 people, while some had as many as 150.
My offer to participate in leadership was eagerly accepted by Tim Overton-Harris, so I attended all the Table Talks in the Cascadia District. District lay leaders also attended events in their own districts as they were available. Observations from people who attended in other districts were close to what I experienced.
People who attended knew much of the basic information of what happened at General Conference. A surprising number of them had actually watched hours of the live stream of the session in St Louis. Most seemed very concerned that we continue to be inclusive of all in our conference, both of the LGBTQ community and also of those who are more conservative. People were worried about our LGBTQ clergy and their ability to continue in ministry. Some were concerned that conservatives were leaving our churches, and some were concerned that young and LGBTQ people were leaving. A few people strongly believe that the church is not doing enough fast enough for our LGBTQ community. Everyone wants to find the best way for their own churches to continue in ministry with their families and their neighborhoods. There seemed to be acceptance of the possibility that the church may split, but people were also very concerned about the global nature of our ministry and how we can find a way to maintain those connections.
From my experience and what others have reported, there were very few conservative voices that spoke up in these sessions. I talked to one woman who acknowledged that she is conservative but wondering if she still had a place in her more progressive congregation. I suspect there were more conservative people who just kept quiet and even more who didn’t attend at all. This is unfortunate, because I know our conference is more diverse than that, and we can’t move forward together if we don’t have the opportunity to listen to all voices.
... she is conservative but wondering if she still had a place in her more progressive congregation.
There will be another opportunity to discuss the future of the church at Annual Conference in Eugene. The prayer of the lay leadership of the conference is that all members, whatever their belief and opinions, will participate fully, honestly, and respectfully. It will take the prayerful participation of all clergy and laity to find our way to our goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ and to transform the world. Every congregation has a part in this, and every member is important. May the Holy Spirit guide us as we find our way forward.
Jan Nelson, conference lay leader
With help from Lydia Henry, Lynn Egli, and Vicky Page
comments powered by Disqus
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.