A Matter of Trust: A series of conversations from The United Methodist Reporter


Note: UMR Managing Editor Laura Harbert Allen will talk with people throughout the 2016 session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The goal of these conversations: to build dialogue and community around the most divisive issues before the 2016 session.

Have we lost the ability to talk with each other? Or, more importantly, have we forgotten how to listen?

We are only two and a half days into the 2016 session of General Conference, and honestly, it feels like folks are digging in for  prolonged fight. We are now on the third day of debating our rules. And, as my colleague Jay Voorhees wrote yesterday: “Groups that don’t trust one another lean on precise and specific rules as a means of protecting their corporate interests.”

He went on to say that folks who do trust one another know they can work things out along the way.

Can we work it out? Is there a way to build trust with one another again?

I hope so. That’s the idea behind my conversation yesterday with John Miles, a clergy delegate from the Arkansas Conference. John and I met during the 2012 General Conference and had a connection right away, even though we stand on opposite sides of the human sexuality question. He holds a conservative, traditional view of marriage – and does not support same-sex unions, nor the ordination of openly LGBTQI people into ministry.

I definitely hold the opposite view. That’s not something journalists are supposed to reveal, but there it is. I’ve said it. Here’s the thing, though. I work for the church. We are supposed to hold love one another, to build the beloved community rooted in Jesus Christ. If we lose the ability to hear, to listen to one another, to get past the shouting and deadlock, then we have failed in that task.

Laura Harbert Allen, Managing Editor

Laura is an independent public radio and multimedia producer who makes stories in the documentary tradition. She served as communications director for the West Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church for seven years and has more than 20 years experience in public radio as an announcer, producer, program director, and general manager. She has also written about music for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and done feature work for Wonderful West Virginia Magazine. Laura is married to the Rev. Jeff Allen. They live in Charleston, West Virginia.

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5 Comments on "A Matter of Trust: A series of conversations from The United Methodist Reporter"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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David Vaughn
Here’s the deal as I see it. We have two different groups that are speaking two different languages. The conservatives speak the language of Scripture and tradition. The progressives speak the language of experience and reason. For conservatives the Scriptures are primary, and the Scriptures nowhere speak kindly of homosexual activity. Tradition bolsters that understanding concerning homosexual acts and the definition of marriage. Progressives, on the other hand see experience as primary, and believe that Scriptures about homosexual acts must be interpreted through the eyes of personal experiences, and reason dictates that since culture is becoming more accepting of gay… Read more »
Tony Nester
David, your analysis is right on – the quadrilateral has been split in two (even though lip service is given to the statement that Scripture is primary). I’ll add that the same split has occurred between the two “Great Commandments”. Conservatives will lean toward the First Commandment: “Love God” – and recognize that we can’t truly love our neighbor outside of God’s call to holiness and obedience. Progressives lean toward the Second Commandment: “Love Your Neighbor” and believe that if our neighbor doesn’t feel loved by our stance or statements then the love of God is missing from our Christian… Read more »

This to me has been an issue I’ve struggled with wrapping my head around with this issue (and other issues). If my neighbor doesn’t “feel” loved by my stance or statements, and in some cases interpret/feel them as hateful, is the love of God missing from my stance or statements if I believe that my statements and stances are spoken out of truth and with the utmost respect and love for my neighbor? I hear that “love wins”, but whose interpretation of love is that?

I would agree that trust is the issue. And while looking at the debate on Rule 44, even though I did not want it to pass (not because of discussion, but because of the facilitator process in regards to petitions) even so it was hard to see the debate going round and round. And I know that others would disagree with me (even family members) who I do respect and love, but my trust has largely in part grown weary because of the disobedient acts against the Discipline and a lack of accountability in response by our Bishops and leaders.… Read more »
Richard F Hicks

Trust, like respect, has to be earned – over time. If fighters only meet in the ring once every four years, there’s going to punching and shoving. There’s going to be snot, spit, and blood on the mat. At least in boxing, there’s a referee to keep the two within the rules. The UMC quad year Smack Down doesn’t have a third party referee. Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

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