It is exciting to be back at FirstChurch! There has been much activity over the summer, and I wanted to update you on the work of one group in particular.
In late May, I formed the “Church at the Crossroads” Commission, and asked eight lay leaders to join me in exploring FirstChurch’s response to the passing of The Traditional Plan at the called General Conference in St. Louis in February. Discussion topics included results of the Judicial Council ruling, disaffiliation, disobedience and apportionments, FirstChurch’s wedding policy and governance structure, and ways to encourage young people to answer a call to ministry.
Before I left on study leave, I offered guidance and some assignments to the group, and they have met faithfully throughout the summer. They also heard from many of you regarding your stances on these issues, and were pleased with the level of thought and care you gave to your responses.
At our last Church Council meeting on September 3, members of the Commission presented some initial recommendations based on their discussions and research. The first recommendation to Church Council was to strengthen our church’s governance to the expectations of The United Methodist Church’s
Book of Discipline.
The work is underway in my office to:
- Reinstate the Office of the Lay Leader, which is the named and elected full member of FirstChurch who is the lay connection to the congregation;
- Establish a Nominating Committee for nominations and leadership development, which is responsible for maintaining a diverse and knowledgeable lay leadership for our committees and agencies relating to Church Council;
- Elect a youth to serve as a full member on the Church Council; and,
- Officially institute a chapter of United Methodist Men.
There are a number of other recommendations that the Commission is considering. They know that this work cannot happen in a bubble, so they would like to hear from the congregation. To provide a space for meaningful discussion, the Commission is hosting three listening sessions. Any member can attend any of these meetings and participate in a structured roundtable discussion designed to foster conversation and connection with one another. The input received from these sessions will inform subsequent recommendations, which will be shared at the next Church Council meeting on October 21. Please take advantage of this chance to speak directly with the Commission and take a greater ownership in how FirstChurch moves forward.
The dates and times for the listening sessions are:
- Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 - 8:30 p.m., C.C. Young
- Thursday, Oct. 3, 6:30 - 8 p.m., Fiedler Atrium (childcare will be available)
- Sunday, Oct. 13, 9:45 - 10:45 a.m., Fiedler Atrium (This will be an abbreviated session)
In case you cannot attend any of these sessions, feel free to share your thoughts and opinions with the Commission via email. Their pictures and email address are linked below.
We have work ahead but I am confident in the abilities of this Commission and the faithfulness of this congregation. I look forward to hearing from you at these upcoming listening sessions to discern our path forward.
Together, we are held...
In God's Love,
Dr. Andy Stoker