Town Hall tackles tough topic of church future


Annual Conference members got the sense that something new is being birthed from the brokenness caused by General Conference 2019, but what that baby will look like remains to be seen.

At least, that’s how Rev. Jeannine Knepper phrased it during Thursday’s town hall discussion when different representatives gathered at the front of the plenary room to answer questions formed by different Table Talk groups and also included questions from the crowd.

Panelists were asked to tell the truth about how they viewed the church being in the position it is of possibly splitting over the issue of LGBTQ+ inclusion and the General Conference 2019 adoption of the traditional plan.

Esteban Galan of Boise, who is a young LGBTQ+ person of color, said there needs to be more organizing and more transparency. The United Methodist Church has historically been run by a white, patriarchal system that has done great harm to the marginalized.

“If you want to know how to build coalitions, look toward people of color who have had to work cross-culturally for generations,” he said. “People of color already know how to work together.”

The panel included Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, pastor Ric Shewell, Anna Cho, Galan and Conference lay leader Jan Nelson.

Questions ranged from youth wondering what will happen to them if there is a schism to how will the conference commit to including people of color and the marginalized in discussions about the church future.

Shewell, pastor at Christ Church in Portland, compared what’s happening to ships sailing at sea.

“If all the ships takes down their sail it doesn’t mean the wind isn’t blowing. There will be a church. I think it will be leaner and meaner – thank God,” he said.

This story is continuing to be developed.