Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar invites us to join in “Courageous Conversations” about General Conference 2019. The New England Conference is planning a series of “Courageous Conversation” gatherings in March 2019 to unpack the events of General Conference and help us to process our feelings and experiences together.
Watch a video invitation from Bishop Devadhar:
The following article is from the United Methodist Church's website at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/commission-on-a-way-forward-5-things-you-need-to-know
Commission on a Way Forward: 5 things you need to know
A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*
As a United Methodist, you may have heard about some of the things happening in our church today around the issues of human sexuality, and the work being done by a group called the Commission on a Way Forward. Their important work will help shape the future of The United Methodist Church.
These five things offer an overview of the Commission on a Way Forward. Many links are included that take you to pages where you can learn much more.
At General Conference 2016 in Portland, there were an overwhelming number of proposals dealing with issues surrounding same-sex marriage, the ordination of LGBTQ clergy, and related topics. During a discussion about how to proceed, a clergy delegate addressed the bishops. “We are asking for your leadership.” Another added, “We are in a stuck place… I’m pleading with you. Please help us.”
The bishops returned later in the General Conference with a plan. They would create a group to research and advise them of ways to help us get unstuck, to move us forward. The group they later brought together is the Commission on a Way Forward. More about the formation of the commission here and here.
The bishops carefully formed the Commission on a Way Forward, inviting 32 people who identified on all sides of the issues to be part of this special group. Eight bishops, 13 other clergy members, and 11 lay members constitute the commission. More about the members here.
The work of the Commission on a Way Forward is “to inform deliberation across the whole church and to help the Council of Bishops in their service to the next General Conference in finding a way forward.” More on their “About Us” page.
The commission regularly reported to the bishops during their work (see timeline to the right). Their final report will be presented to a special session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
As the Commission on a Way Forward was beginning their work, the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) invited scholars to a gathering called “Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality: Toward a Faithful United Methodist Witness.” Twenty-eight academics from three countries gathered for three days in March 2017, at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia, to present papers and discuss the issues. Eight members of the Commission on a Way Forward attended the event. More about this gathering here.
Following the gathering, GBHEM produced Unity of the Church and Human Sexuality, a study guide based on the scholars’ conversation. The study guide is available free online here. Bound copies can be purchased at Cokesbury.com. The papers presented by the academics are also available for purchase at Cokesbury.com.
On July 31, 2018, the final report of the Commission on a Way Forward was released in the four offical languages of The United Methodist Church. The report may be downloaded in English, French, Portuguese, and Swahili.
5. Who decides?
The report of the Commission on a Way Forward will be received and acted upon by a special session of General Conference to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019. This worldwide gathering of United Methodists will only act on items around our deep divide over homosexuality. More here.
Originally, the Commission on a Way Forward understood their role as advisory to the Council of Bishops, who would then report to the special General Conference session. A ruling of the Judicial Council on May 25, 2018, clarified that the Commission on a Way Forward is to report directly to the General Conference. More here.
Most of the delegates for the 2019 General Conference will be those who attended the 2016 General Conference, though The Book of Discipline allows annual conferences to elect new delegates if they so choose. As with every General Conference the number of clergy and lay (non-clergy) delegates will be equal. Bishops preside, but do not vote. More about General Conferences here.
Our next regular General Conference will be held May 5-15, 2020, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
To keep up with the progress, be sure to visit our umc.org/wayforward.
Please also be sure to talk to your United Methodist pastor.
*Joe Iovino works for UMC.org at United Methodist Communications. Contact him by email or at 615-312-3733.
This story first posted on March 6, 2018.
Edited Auigust 9, 2018 with updated status and to reflect changes.
This Advent we’ll be exploring the theme, “Be Not Afraid”. There’s much to be anxious about in the world around us – natural disasters, political divisiveness, the threat of nuclear war. And many of us struggle with fears in our personal lives – fear of loss, failure, illness, death. The undercurrent of fear in our culture affects us all, to some degree.
But there is a good word for us in this season of Advent. It’s heard in the words of Jesus and the announcements of the angels: “Be not afraid.” That reassurance was given to all the major characters in the Christmas narrative. This Advent, as we revisit the stories promising the coming of Emmanuel, we’ll be reminded that the Christian response — the Christmas response — to the very real problems that threaten us is not to deny them, but to live beyond the fear they provoke, because God is with us.
December 3: Fear of Harm – Isaiah 2:1-4, Matthew 24:1-8
December 10: Fear of Failure – Luke 1:26-38
December 17: Fear of Rejection – Worship drama – Matthew 1:18-25
December 24: Fear of the Unknown – Luke 2:1-20
August Sermon Series – “Bad Girls of the Bible”
During the month of August we’ll explore some of the biblical stories of women who have traditionally been portrayed as “vamps and tramps”. But was Delilah really a double-crossing femme fatale? Was Jezebel a jezebel? Was the woman at the well a vixen or a victim? How did Mary Magdalene get such a bad reputation? Join us as we take a closer look at the “Bad Girls of the Bible”.
August 6: “A Bad Hair Day” (Judges 16:4-21)
We’ll put our preconceived notions of Delilah aside as we take a closer look at the story of her betrayal of Sampson.
August 13: “A Bad Girl or BAD Girl?” (1 Kings 21:1-16)
Just who was Jezebel and how did she earn such a bad reputation? We’ll revisit the biblical stories about this notorious queen of Israel.
August 20: “Looking Below the Surface” (John 4:4-19, 27-30, 39-41)
A pair of monologues this day will help us hear the familiar story of the Samaritan woman at the well in a new way.
August 27: “Apostle to the Apostles” (Luke 8:1-3)
Who exactly was Mary Magdelene and how much of what we think we know is actually in the Bible?
This series of videos invites us into a better, newer place - one where change is happening and it comes through engagement with the Liberator of the world. These thinkers and theologians, authors and storytellers will stir our imagination so we might capture a glimpse of a dream that is yet to come and at the same time being fulfilled before our very eyes. They will share what has happened in their own lives and how we might join with them in this journey. May we, together, step into a better place.
Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 as we view and discuss "A New Place to Be".
Dogspell: The Gospel According to Dogs
A Sermon Series for the “Dog Days” of Summer
Have you ever thought of dogs as a living, breathing metaphor for God? What is it about their unconditional love, loyalty, and companionship that could shed light on our understanding of God? (Maybe it’s no coincidence that “dog” is “God” spelled backwards!) Reflecting on the dog-like qualities of God is not nearly as strange – or as sacrilegious – as it sounds. Join us during the month of July as we explore what dogs can teach us about the character of God.
July 9 – “Dog Is Love”
July 16 – “Dog With Us”
July 23 – “Search & Rescue Dog”
July 30 – “The Loyalty of Dog”
Sunday mornings at 8:30 AM beginning April 23, 2017
What is prayer? Does it simply consist of asking something of God, or does it tap into something deeper in us - a longing for intimate connection, like that of a child being held by a parent? This curriculum starts the discussion about what prayer means and how we regain a practice that is at the core of who we are. We will hear from theologians and thinkers who share their own journeys of prayer.
Join us Sunday mornings at 8:30 as we view and discuss "The Art & Practice of Prayer".
You can preview the videos by clicking here.
Lenten Worship Series – “Roll Down Justice”
This year’s Lenten worship series is inspired by the prophet Amos, whose message is that God calls us to let “justice roll down like waters” (Amos 5:24). As we explore the biblical call to justice, we will incorporate the powerful music of composer Mark Miller, the liturgy of worship designer Marcia McFee, the prayer poetry of Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling, and the words of our baptismal vows.
Ash Wednesday – March 1, 2017 at 6:30 PM
Scripture: Amos 5: 21-24
Anthem: “Make Me an Instrument of Peace”
The season of Lent begins with a call to repent, which means to “turn around.” This year, we will turn from our apathy, from simply “going through the motions” of our life and worship. Instead we will pray to be active instruments of peace and agents of change in the world.
First Sunday in Lent – March 5, 2017
“Naming Each One”
Scripture: Romans 8: 31-39
Anthem: “Child of God”
In a world that seems obsessed with who is “right and wrong,” “good or bad,” “in or out” or on “this side or that side,” it is a radical endeavor to name each person as “Child of God”.
Second Sunday in Lent – March 12, 2017
Scripture: Psalm 13
Anthem: “How Long?”
Over half of the liturgical songs of the Israelites were Psalms of Lament, giving voice to the pain of the people. Today we lament the injustice of our own time. And yet, we also remember that through our baptism we are given the “freedom and power to resist evil in all its forms” as we “put our whole trust in God.”
Third Sunday in Lent – March 19, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-40
Anthem: “I Dream of a Church”
At our baptism, we promise to nurture one another and to “serve as Christ’s representatives in the world.” Today we ask the question, “Do we as the church look and act like Jesus?”
Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 26, 2017
“Communities of Forgiveness”
Scripture: Luke 23: 32-43
Anthem: “I Choose Love”
Each time someone is baptized, the whole church body gathered also makes vows. One of the things we promise is to be a community of love and forgiveness. Each day we must choose between letting the difficult things about life create resentment in us, or allowing the work of forgiveness to make way for love.
Fifth Sunday in Lent – April 2, 2017
Scripture: Isaiah 58: 6-12:
Anthem: “God Has Work for Us to Do”
As we break bread today, we remember that as long as there are those who are hurting, hungry, excluded and oppressed, we are called to be faithful disciples, setting a table and inviting all to the feast.
Palm Sunday – April 9, 2017
“We Are One”
Scripture: Isaiah 35: 1-3; Matthew 21: 1-11
Anthems: “The Day is Coming” and "Roll Down, Justice!"
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem enacted a coming day when power is displayed not with military might but through solidarity in the name of love and justice. We pray for a time when we are one, supporting one another on the road of life, not tearing one another down because of our differences.
Maundy Thursday, April 13, 2017 at 6:30 PM
“Journey to the Water”
Scripture: Psalm 42
Anthem: “Traveling Companions”
Our Lenten journey will lead us to the waters of baptismal renewal in the dark of night. Drawing on the ancient Vigil ritual that incorporates Light, Water, Word and Table, we will make a pilgrimage through the church, moving through our faith story then and now.
Good Friday Service of Tenebrae, April 14, 2017 at 6:30 PM
The betrayal by a close friend. The arrest on trumped up charges. The farce of a trial. The crucifixion by an unjust empire. This service of Tenebrae recalls the injustices that cost Jesus his life. Tenebrae (Latin for “darkness”) is based on a twelfth-century late night service and is an extended meditation on the Passion of Christ. During this powerful service of readings and hymns, a candle is extinguished after each Scripture lesson recounting the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. At the conclusion of the service we will leave the sanctuary in near-darkness and silence as we await Easter.
Easter Sunday – April 16, 2017
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-9
This is the day we proclaim that justice does indeed roll down in a stream of love that cannot be stopped! We celebrate (in William Sloane Coffin's words) “the victory of seemingly powerless love over loveless power.”
Lenten Small Group Study
In conjunction with our Lenten worship series entitled “Roll Down, Justice”, Pastor Arlene will be facilitating a six-week discussion series developed by the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR). The series is based on a collection of social justice hymns recently published by Mark Miller of Drew University School of Theology. Each session includes video of Miller performing and reflecting on the focus hymn.
We meet Sunday mornings from 9:15—10:00 in the Youth Room.
March 5: “Child of God”
March 12: “How Long?”
March 19: “I Dream of a Church”
March 26: “I Choose Love”
April 2: “God Has Work for Us to Do”
April 9: “The Day is Coming”
If you are unable to join us in person, you can access the study guides and watch the videos online by clicking here.
If you missed worship today because you're still shoveling out or the icy conditions make it too dangerous to drive, here's a worship service that you can use for your Sunday morning devotion. If you're with others, you can alternate the "One" and "All" parts.
Preparation: If you don't have an Advent wreath, gather 4 candles to light.
Centering: "Para dar Luz Inmortal" by Chanticleer
This beautiful piece of music was written by 18th-century Mexican composer Manuel de Sumaya in honor of Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus.
"You are a throne, since your arms received the Christ Child
And they came together in sweet embrace with the tenderest affection;
enjoy Joseph, the ermine of this celestial flower.
You are Joseph, the clear day in angelic purity."
Lighting the Advent Candle of Hope:  Light the first three Advent candles and then recite this acclamation as you light the candle of Hope:
One: God of Wonders,
All: Awesome Living One,
One: Prince of Peace, Unending Love, Joy’s Desire, and Hope of the World,
All: Come to us!
One: Shine out in the midst of hopelessness
All: Shine out to light our way
One: Shine in our dimmest places
All: Shine through us for the world to see!
Opening Song: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" by Jody Cross and Hiram Joseph
Opening Prayer: 
Light before us, light behind us, light under our feet.
Light within us, light over us, let all around us be light.
Christ before us, Christ behind us, Christ under our feet.
Christ within us, Christ over us, let all around us be Christ.
Hope before us, hope behind us, hope under our feet.
Hope within us, hope over us, let all around us be hope.
Isaiah 7:10-16 (CEB)
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign from the Lord your God. Make it as deep as the grave or as high as heaven.”
But Ahaz said, “I won’t ask; I won’t test the Lord.”
Then Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Isn’t it enough for you to be tiresome for people that you are also tiresome before my God? Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign. The young woman is pregnant and is about to give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel. He will eat butter and honey, and learn to reject evil and choose good. Before the boy learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned.
Matthew 1:18-25 (CEB)
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. When Mary his mother was engaged to Joseph, before they were married, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was a righteous man. Because he didn’t want to humiliate her, he decided to call off their engagement quietly. As he was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the child she carries was conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Now all of this took place so that what the Lord had spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled:
Look! A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son,
And they will call him, Emmanuel.
(Emmanuel means “God with us.”)
When Joseph woke up, he did just as an angel from God commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he didn’t have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son. Joseph called him Jesus.
Message: "Unearthing Joseph"
(This sermon was recorded at our Thursday evening worship service on 12/15/16. Note a correction regarding the reference to "Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine". The hymn actually is found in The Faith We Sing hymnal.)
Response Song: "It Wasn't His Child" by Skip Ewing
Where do you see similarities in the values and behavior of Joseph and Jesus?
Who in your life has been a model of compassion and mercy?
Receive God’s gift of time to be in prayer, offering God any burdens or joys that you are aware of for yourself, others, the world. Don’t rush. Receive silence as well as words. Then join in the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples:
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.
Closing Prayer by Larry J. Peacock
God of December darkness and Christmas light, deepen my longing, heighten my expectation, and make pregnant my hope. I know that within my heart is a Bethlehem: a place where light shines with tender memories. A place where angelic voices sing loud and clear. A place of wonder and awe, delight and calm. God of December darkness and Christmas light, journey with me during these days so that I may know and prize my Bethlehem moments. Amen.
Closing song: "Joy to the World/Shout for Joy" by Paul Baloche
Advent 2016: “Awed & Odd”
We Christians believe in “folly” – that there is peace, love, joy and hope in the midst of both the good and the difficult times. We believe that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This makes us “odd” according to those who proclaim the victory of decline and death all around. It is especially in this season of expectant hope that we can instead proclaim the awe-inspiring presence of God’s reign that continually makes all things new. This is a season of odd “juxtapositions” – swords into plowshares, wolves and lambs resting peacefully together, and those without a voice singing for joy!
First Sunday of Advent – November 27
“Peace in the Midst of Conflict”
Isaiah 2:1-5 and Psalm 122
To keep awake is to open our eyes in awe at the works of the Holy in our midst and to the promises of God to continually make all things new. We introduce the theme of “Awed & Odd” for this season of anticipation and expectation. This first Sunday of Advent we focus on the practices of peace to which we are called, making us “odd” in the eyes of a world that lets fear drive our actions toward one another.
Second Sunday of Advent – December 4
“Love in the Midst of Hate”
Isaiah 11:1-10 and Matthew 3:1-12
The Hebrew word translated in the First Testament as “fear” is probably closer to our word “awe”. Those who are open to the awe of God will be delighted at the love they witness blooming where once was fear and hatred. Isaiah’s prophecy of unlikely combinations (wolves and lambs, calves and lions, cows and bears) can point us toward the awesome power of God to create more love and understanding in the world.
Third Sunday of Advent – December 11
“Joy in the Midst of Despair”
Isaiah 35:1-10 and Luke 1:46b-55
We wonder what one person, or one church, can do, and we despair at the injustices of the world. When helplessness makes us feel weak in the hands or feeble in the knees, we are reminded of the power of the “lowly servants” as Mary’s prophetic voice rings out in the “Magnificat” (the song of one awe-struck young woman!). Things in the reign of God are topsy-turvy. As the Body of Christ, we must be “born again” this Advent into the awe of God that leads to the joy of liberating service.
Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 18
“Hope in the Midst of Hopelessness”
Sacred Drama: “Voices of Advent”
Isaiah 7:10-16 and Matthew 1:18-25
Nothing about this pregnancy was “usual.” Add to that signs and wonders and angel visits and the birth of Jesus can be called “odd” at best. But the message is clear – things can be born when you least expect it. So it is with hope. Be on the look-out for the ways that hope refuses to die. If you can’t find light in the usual places, look for it elsewhere. Do not fear. Move forward even if you can’t see the light yet. The light comes into the world and will not be overcome. God is with us!
The Bangor First Blog
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