Podcasts as incredibly popular these days as they give space for people to do deep dives into a topic and they can “accompany” us as we travel, work out, go for a walk, or do mundane tasks that allow our minds to engage the content. I’m thankful to the Rev. Molly Vetter, who is hosting a new podcast with a great array of guests to engage on this topic. It’s a great resource for individuals or groups to listen to and make sense of greater church happenings.
Rev. Vetter sent an article for Hacking Christianity to introduce why the series is helpful–be sure to click to subscribe!
What Can I Tell My Congregation?
Rev. Molly Vetter
This season in our denomination is unlike any before. Though it’s been decades since our General Conference has been able to provide a helpful structure for genuinely generative deliberation about how to move through complex organizational and theological differences, the Covid pandemic has finally disabled our ability even to pretend that our existing institutional meetings can fix our problems, now that they have been postponed to 2024.
Many in my congregation believe that our present challenge is primarily a difference in our understanding of human sexuality. I see ways it goes so very much deeper. (I am grateful for blogs like Hacking Christianity that so faithfully continue to explore that depth.)
My concern is how to bring the rest of us along for that conversation. I believe that what’s at stake is not merely making sure we end up on the most Christ-like side of a divide; our conversations now are shaping the kind of a church we want to be, and how that connects to the values and faith our lay people and clergy are living out every week.
My desire is to communicate better an accurate description of where we are–not the manipulative vision of those who have long sought to diminish the social witness of our United Methodist Church, or those who have long sought to leave, but a description that reminds us what we’re about, and points us in a direction of Christ-like hope. (Hat tip to HX for doing this good work back in 2021)
When my congregation asked me to interpret for them more about what’s going on in the church, honestly, at first, my heart sank. I am exhausted when I think about what it will take to coordinate institutional fixes that can get us out of this place where we are stuck. It’s hard to figure out where to begin to explain just how much of a mess we’re in. Even more than a primer to help us understand what’s at stake in our General Conference meetings, though, I’m interested in preparing us for a faithful future in our local churches every week.
I keep showing up for this work because I see the ways the church continues to offer something of value. We are communities of grace and redemption in a broken and hurting world. We are agents of hope and transformation for the sake of the love of Jesus Christ. We aren’t the church we once were–like other Christian churches in the US, we have experienced declining participation and waning influence in the world. But that is NOT the whole story.
By nature, I look for the positive side of situations. And at this moment, I see so many windows of opportunity. I used to believe that changing the Book of Discipline would be the most effective way of stopping the harm of anti-LGBTQ+ in our society. I now see ways that we have moved forward even in the wake of a General Conference as ugly as the one in 2019. More and more of us are speaking up and speaking out, and this work is slowly nudging our church into alignment with the radical love of Jesus Christ, and our gospel message of liberation.
To satisfy my congregation’s desire for insight into what’s going on in the denomination, I decided to ask some of our diverse church leaders who are helping shape the church we are becoming. Those interviews have become a podcast, “Where Do We Go From Here, UMC?” Currently planned with six episodes, guests include Bishop Thomas Bickerton, Randall Miller, Lonnie Chafin, Hannah Adair Bonner, Bishop Karen Oliveto, and Lloyd Nyarota.
The conversations are aimed at regular church folks, and come out of a desire to interpret this moment in the church in a way that translates some of the complexity into a framework that makes sense with the gospel and with the lived reality of a local church. I encourage you to listen and share them, host a class in your local church, or use them to help reframe your own description of who we are and who we are becoming.
Note: The podcast is accessible at “Where Do We Go From Here, UMC?” [www.wheredowegoumc.com]. View it as a video on YouTube, stream it online, or download it through our favorite podcast platform. The website includes transcripts and discussion questions to make it easier to use in your local church. During the six-week series, a new episode comes out each Tuesday.
Rev. Molly Vetter is passionate about many things: building community with unlikely and diverse people, making the church more boldly welcoming, and caring for the earth. She was appointed Senior Pastor of Westwood United Methodist Church in 2019. She’s excited to serve a congregation with such a rich legacy of thoughtful engagement on social issues and such an incredible worship space in which to connect to the grace and mystery of our God.. Read more about Molly here.
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