Connectionalism on display: Pastors gather to celebrate staying UMC

October 25, 2022
By Cathy Bruce

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Sometimes we need to be reminded of what makes us unique, and Monday morning on a beautiful fall day, under clear blue skies and a canopy of trees exhibiting their most beautiful colors, approximately 60 Kentucky Annual Conference clergy members gathered to celebrate the special bond of United Methodist connectionalism.
In a time of uncertainty about what the future church will look like, these pastors celebrated the connection that they already have. The meeting at Broadway UMC in Bowling Green was designed to bring together like-minded clergy during this season of denominational uncertainty.

The gathering was special because this was a gathering of clergy who are committed to staying United Methodist. No matter the trials, no matter the hardships, no matter how long it takes to get to the finish line, they have stated that they are staying in the denomination, and they are looking, with joyful anticipation, toward the future.
The morning began with a praise band setting the worshipful tone that would carry throughout the day. Inviting voices to rise together in song, a combination of “Through it All” and “It Is Well with My Soul.” I believe that could be the theme for many of the clergy gathered!
The first speaker, Rev. Dr. Davis Chappell, senior pastor of Brentwood UMC in Brentwood, Tennessee, reminded those gathered that they are blessed by the blood of Christ to be reconcilers. Exactly what the church needs in this uncertain time.
A recurring theme was: How do we look toward the future when we've been in this season of in-between for so long? We remember that we are not a people without hope!  We are a people that believe in God's promise, even as we are in a season between the promise and the fulfillment.
One of the most touching things that came out of the panel discussion was what a tender season we are in as a church. Clergy need to remember to practice self-care and tenderness, not just tenderness toward others but tenderness toward themselves.
Members of the panel spoke of an unspoken and often unacknowledged season of grief that so many clergy people are living in and stated that it's OK to acknowledge and name this emotion. It's OK to grieve because our denomination is changing and relationships are changing, and this causes grief.
Clergy are also encouraged to build a strong emotional and spiritual support team for themselves, leaning on coaches, counselors, colleagues, friends and family during this time of so many questions and unknowns.
Later in the gathering Rev. Dr. Tod Bolsinger, a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, reminded the participants that leadership is about being honest and vulnerable, something that was definitely on display throughout the gathering.
Bolsinger, author of “Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory,”  also reminded participants that ministry happens in turbulent times. So even during the liminal season that we find ourselves in, there will be ministry that is born. Isn't that a marvelous word to hear!
Near the end of the gathering, the group spent rich time in table discussion around key questions like: How can traditional, centrist and progressive people work together; and:   And: What kinds of ministry and missional experiments can we try?

Throughout the day there was laughter and hugs; pain and tears, but the unique bond of connectionalism was on full display: the special bond that these clergy were there to celebrate, standing shoulder to shoulder with one another ready to march into the future of a new United Methodist Church.
The organizers plan to meet again early in 2023 and will invite any clergy who are interested in remaining United Methodist to attend.