All posts by agapechurch

Update for Reopening NOUMC

On June 4, there was a Zoom Congregation Meeting to provide updates and discussion about the process of considering when and how we reopen the church building. The “Reopening Team of NOUMC” represented by 12 church leaders met on June 11 and discussed in further detail considerations for reopening the building for small group gatherings, office work, and in-person worship.

The “Team” is forming a plan which may allow small NOUMC groups and committees to meet with masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing practices, and other safe measures during the summer months. Outside groups such as the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Alcoholics Anonymous groups or people desiring to gather for social occasions and family celebrations may not use the building at this time in respect for maintaining prevention of the spread of COVID-19 and in consistently keeping surfaces sanitized and cleaned.

The office staff will continue to work remotely from home in communication with each other and the congregation. Small social gatherings outside the church with safe distancing of vehicles and people is being discussed as a future possibility.

In-person worship, fellowship, and Sunday School at NOUMC is preliminarily targeted for Sunday, September 13 depending largely on guidance from the Bishop and her cabinet, the Governor and his staff, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and respect for the health and safety of everyone. When Sunday morning activities do resume, they will be experienced differently compared to pre-COVID-19. From the parking lot to entering and using all spaces in the church, guidelines for: masks, sanitizers, social distancing, greetings, ushering, receiving the offering and Sacrament of Holy Communion, limited or no use of hymnals and bulletins, possibly no singing, and cleaning surfaces will need to be practiced in order to optimize people’s health and safety.

The Team is placing a high priority on offering our ministries in an inclusive way so that people who are not able or choose not to gather with future in-person, reopening activities may connect with one another via phone or other electronic communications. Group leaders and committee chairs are asked to keep this point in mind when it is announced that you may consider meetings in the building. Zoom meetings or similar computer tools are strongly encouraged as an alternative to in-person meetings.

Please note that returning to the building for in-person worship, small group gatherings, and office work is not without risk. We can’t guarantee that it will be completely safe to gather together in regards to COVID-19.

Finally, please note that the Team will provide updates about reopening the church building as they become known while seeking out more ideas and thoughts from the congregation.

“Do Not Be Afraid: Easter Is on Its Way!”

“…Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:10

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior!

I trust that you are experiencing Lent and the approaching time of Easter with new awakenings and a spirit of hope and promise for renewed life through the Risen Christ!

With this in mind, I encourage you to tell the Good News of the Risen Christ. This high calling of discipleship cannot be done through our own strength. Why? Most, if not all of us, are impacted in some way by challenges with relationships, families, careers, health, and hopes for the wellbeing of the church, country, and world.

Are you troubled by a disagreement or hurtful experience with a family member or friend? Are you experiencing strains in your job or with adjustments in retirement? Are you worried about your own health or the health of a loved one in light of the news of COVID-19? Are you anxious about the future of the local and connectional church? Are you concerned about the deep divides of people in their ways of thinking and behaving with one another?

The Good News is that the love of God and the Risen Christ are present with whatever we are facing, and it is the strength of our faith that gives us courage to move forward each day, one person, one-moment-at-a time! We need not worry or be afraid!

Thanks be to God, through Jesus’ proclamation to those who first experienced his resurrection, we can live hopefully and courageously with the words: “Do not be afraid!” We can do so by telling and living the Good News that Jesus, the Risen Christ, is alive and well!

Easter is on its way and will soon be experienced as an encouraging reminder of the power of resurrection life!

Pastor Hoyte

“Living Water” · John 4:5-42 

It’s a story of great significance. It’s significant that the conversation ever happened. The barriers were widely known among most people.  Notably, Jesus was a Jew and the woman was a Samaritan. Between Samaritans and Jews there was a wall of separation no less than what in our time physically separates the Israelis from the Palestinians.

The Jews and Samaritans were related peoples as both were Hebrews. The Samaritans were from the old northern kingdom of Israel, while the Jews were from the old southern kingdom of Judah. The Samaritans inter-married with non-Jewish peoples and lost much of their ethnic identity while the Jews maintained their identity. 

Each group ended up with their own temple, the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, and the Jews on Mount Zion. And so it was an unusual choice for Jesus to travel through Samaria. Jesus having a conversation with a Samaritan was even more unusual.

The conversation between Jesus and the woman at the well of Sychar in Samaria was very significant. In that time and place, men and women were not to talk to one another in public. It was considered improper to do so, especially when a man was like Jesus—a rabbi, a teacher, and someone looked up to as an honored authority. I imagine that when the disciples came to the well, they were astonished that Jesus was speaking with a woman.

I imagine that the disciples were also astonished that the person was a Samaritan woman—someone rejected by her own people. She came to the well to draw water at noon, one of the hottest times of the day. Morning and evening were known to be times to do the hard work of drawing water and hauling it to one’s home. This was commonly work that women were to do with one another. But the Samaritan woman went to the well alone, perhaps viewing herself as a misfit and outcast. She may have avoided others in order to not be hurt and rejected again by their words, attitudes, and disapproval.

It was very significant to the Samaritan woman that Jesus promised “living water.” Living water was understood as water that flows, runs, and sparkles. Living water must have been a welcome change to the woman compared to water that often became discolored or even stagnant at other wells.

I imagine that the woman presumed that Jesus was talking about a hidden stream that he knew was much better than the well at Sychar. She desired the water he was offering so that she wouldn’t have to travel a great distance to haul buckets from other wells. 

But what Jesus promised was a source of “living water” that would touch her heart so that she could truly live. The woman wasn’t clear about what that exactly meant, but I imagine that she sensed that the “living water” he described was something that she desperately needed in her life.

It was significant that Jesus knew the details of her life. The details aren’t completely understood, but I sense that she was experiencing a very difficult time in her life. She had had five husbands. Perhaps the marriages ended through death, divorce, or desertion—or maybe a combination of those factors? I wonder if they were truly marriages, or relationships of short or long-term convenience? I wonder why the current man she was with was not truly her husband? We don’t have answers to these questions, but perhaps we don’t need them? Even so, my sense is that the woman felt very alone and exiled from her family, friends, and neighbors.

It was significant that Jesus knew the truth about the woman. She must have been impacted greatly that, knowing the truth, Jesus accepted her. I imagine that it was a divine encounter with a man she believed might be a prophet.

There is another significant occurrence. The woman asked Jesus to resolve the long-standing and divisive question of who was right: the Jews or the Samaritans? It appears that she may have been questioning the correct place to worship—the temple in Gerizim or Jerusalem? And so a significant occurrence happened when Jesus raised the matter to a higher level. True worship would no longer depend on physical location, but would be a matter of spirit and truth.

The experience at the well offered yet another significant occurrence. The woman confessed her faith in a Messiah who was to come, and Jesus said that he was the Messiah. Jesus revealed his most important true self not to his disciples, not to the people of his own Jewish heritage, not to religious leaders, but to a person who was considered marginal three-times-over by her lineage people: a Samaritan, a woman, and at best questionable on her relationships with men. Yet, Jesus entrusted her with his deepest secret, the truth of who he was, is, and always will be: the Messiah! 

We also learn in the story that the disciples arrived at the well to offer food for Jesus, the woman leaves her water jar, and runs back to the city of Sychar to proclaim: come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done—the Messiah—the one who offers living water! The crowd that comes to the well is so large that Jesus compares it to a field ready to be harvested —harvested to be followers of him through God, the Father, who sent him.

Here then we have the last significant occurrence. The unlikely person, the Samaritan woman, becomes the key witness in proclaiming the truth about Jesus the Messiah, modeling how any one of us regardless of who we are, what we’ve done, or how we’ve been treated can witness about Jesus, too. 

Why? Like the woman at the well, we don’t have to have our life together in every way. We don’t need to know all there is to know. What we are called to simply do is to offer our lives of faith in God and Jesus Christ in the most authentic and honest ways possible with others and then let others make their own choices about life and faith!

How do we do that?  Bruce Larson, in his book Ask Me to Dance, includes a story about a member of his congregation who had come from another country. Pastor Larsen wrote: “Her faith sparkled and the living water of the spirit flowed out of her soul to all around her.” He invited her to go with him to a seminar on the topic of evangelism. The leaders had prepared tables filled with all sorts of pamphlets and strategies and demographic studies, all aimed at reaching the un‑churched in their area. At some point during the program the leaders turned to this woman and asked her to share some of the reasons that made the church so important and so vital in her home country. At first, she was a bit intimidated by the crowd, but then she had this to say, “Well, we never gave pamphlets to people because we never had any. We just showed people by our life and example what it is like to be a Christian, and when they can see for themselves, then they want to be a Christian, too.” (adapted in part from Leading by Example, Bruce Larson)

In this season of Lent and the approaching time of Easter, may your lives be Christian examples of the flowing love of God and Jesus Christ so that others might come to desire “living water,” too!

Amen.

Pastor Hoyte Wilhelm

North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Cancellation of Worship Services at NOUMC

Friends,

As I mentioned in my letter yesterday that was sent via email and posted on the church’s website and Facebook page, the news about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing daily in ways that impact how churches, businesses, schools, and other organizations respond with people.

This afternoon a letter was sent from the Resident Bishop of The East Ohio Conference, Bishop Tracy S. Malone, in which she stated: “I urge all East Ohio churches to cancel public worship services through the next two weeks, effective today through March 27.”

Click here to read the full letter from Bishop Tracy S. Malone >>

Therefore, I have decided to support the urgency of the Bishop’s message by cancelling worship service for at least March 15, 22, and possibly March 29.  It is unknown at this time if we will need to cancel services beyond the 22nd, 29th, and through April 5th (Palm Sunday). 

I will keep you posted as to worship services; but for now, please note that we will not be worshiping at the church on March 15 and 22.  I am considering some options in providing a virtual way of experiencing worship by offering words of welcome, liturgies, prayers, scriptures, and messages on the church’s website and Facebook page until we can meet in the sanctuary again.   

Special Note: If you are a leader of a committee, team, or small group of the church, please consider rescheduling meetings or using phones, email, and other computer devises and software tools as an alternative to meeting with people at the church.  If not, please observe safe distances with one another by using the fellowship hall and make sure that you sanitize the spaces where you sit before exiting the building with sanitizing products that are safe for plastic surfaces.   

The staff and I will most likely be curtailing our hours of availability at the church over the next few weeks, but please know that I will still be available to meet in my office or in the North Olmsted area with individuals that desire pastoral care or discussion surrounding matters of administration, ministry, and missions.

Through the love and strength of God and Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit, I know that we will get through this difficult time together with the hope and promise of better days ahead.

Prayerfully in Christ,  
Pastor Hoyte

North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Please see below for a message from Pastor Hoyte regarding our response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

I am writing in shared concern over the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how we can best respond as a church family.

I have been in communication with staff and leaders of the church as well as the District and Conference offices of The United Methodist Church in gaining helpful information. The below correspondence from the District and Conference offices was circulated today to clergy and others via email.  I want to make sure that you are kept in the loop with this information as the two documents offer wise and safe ways to interact in the life of North Olmsted UMC and our sister churches.  

In addition to the below documents please note that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/) and the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/) offer extensive and excellent guidance on how to address concerns pertaining to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). I encourage you to visit the websites to obtain information about maintaining your health and that of your families, friends, and the communities in which you reside, worship, work, and play.

While news, directives, and suggestions from local, state, and federal authorities are changing daily, please note the following that directly affects North Olmsted UMC at the present time.  Until further notice:

1.  We will be worshiping in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

2.  We will not be gathering for Sunday school classes.

3.  The fellowship time on Sunday mornings will include coffee but no food.

4.  Communion in the Chapel after worship services during the Season of Lent will continue with no communal touching of the elements.

Please also note that the following events in the life of the church have been cancelled or postponed until a later date.

1.  UMM Chicken Dinner, Saturday, March 14 (cancelled)

2.  Dover Players March performances of The Boyfriend (postponed)

3.  Breakfast with The Bunny, Saturday, April 4 (cancelled)

For people who are not able to attend worship services on Sunday mornings, you may mail your financial contributions in stewardship with the church to North Olmsted UMC to the attention of Ed Brewster, Financial Secretary.

Finally, please know that through are faith, support, love, and care for one another we can and will get through this unusual and difficult time together.  Remember and hold on to the words of assurance from the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:38-39–“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Serving prayerfully with you with the eternal and guiding presence of God and Jesus Christ,

Pastor Hoyte
North Olmsted United Methodist Church

Random Acts of Kindness

Pastor Hoyte Wilhelm

“… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

It’s easy to get immersed in Valentine’s Day—a special day of giving gifts of love—roses, cards, and chocolates, and other such things. The Day has certainly developed far beyond what anyone could have imagined since it was attributed to Saint Valentine, a third-century Roman saint, commemorated on February 14 during the High Middle Ages in respect for traditions of courtly love.

Acts of love on Valentine’s Day can be expressions of Christian Love or Agape love: the love of God for humans and their reciprocal love for God, extending to the love of one’s fellow humans (paraphrased from the Britannica and Miriam-Webster dictionaries). Agape love is manifested through a love of God in Jesus Christ in our love for others and is experienced in actions of the Spirit, not the least of which is kindness, essential for all Christians as the Apostle Paul encouraged in his letter to the Galatians.

One of the beautiful things about Agape love is that it can be offered randomly anytime, anywhere, with anyone. An ideal time to be attentive to offering such love is during Random Acts of Kindness week, February 11-17, 2020.

I spent some time with the website and discovered a lot of good ideas and suggestions that connect well to living a Christian life with others in the Spirit of kindness. There are hundreds of examples on the website about how people can offer random acts of kindness. I’ve chosen three examples that may yield wonderful and reciprocating blessings of God’s love.

  • Leave a Generous Tip. Paying it forward never goes out of style. If you had service that went above and beyond (or you’re just having a good day), you owe it to your server to tip well. Many people in the service industry rely on tips to earn a livable wage. We all have bad days, even if your service was less than the best, so spread your kindness through generosity.”
  • Wheel Out Your Neighbor’s Trash Bin. We all get caught up in the busyness of our everyday lives, but it’s always nice to know your neighbors are willing to offer a helping hand when you forget to wheel your trashcan out for pickup. This RAK is easy, free, and takes about five minutes to complete…show some kindness to your neighbors by doing this simple favor.”
  • Write Down Someone’s Best Qualities. This can truly make someone’s confidence soar. How would you feel if someone handed you a list of all the things they loved about you? That’s right, amazing! Make someone you care about feel all warm and fuzzy inside.”

What are some other random acts of kindness that you might consider putting into practice this year?

Serving with You through the Love of Christ,

Pastor Hoyte

Update on United Methodist Denomination

NOUMC Family,

Because the United Methodist denomination’s potential actions regarding its stance on human sexuality has been in the news again recently, we thought this would be a good opportunity to provide an update to you. When we briefed the congregation on this issue in November, we promised to keep you informed about further developments. 

In early January, an announcement was made about a proposed plan of separation for the church on this issue.  This announcement was covered extensively in the press.  This new proposal (link below) emerged from a group of leaders from United Methodist organizations, and several bishops, with varied perspectives on this matter – traditional, centrist, and progressive.  We are cautiously optimistic that this proposal might finally lead to resolution of a matter with which our denomination has struggled for more than four decades.

Most news articles on this matter have provided only limited perspective, and many included information that was incorrect or misleading. 

We believe it is important to note that, while news reports continue to characterize the issue as simply a division between those with traditional or progressive views on human sexuality, it does not accurately reflect the fundamental nature of the proposal or our struggle.  Rather, our debate is about what kind of relationship we want to have with our friends in and beyond the church, even when we disagree about certain matters. 

North Olmsted United Methodist, like most churches, has people with differing perspectives pertaining to this issue.  But we share a deep faith in God and Jesus Christ, with love and care for each other that transcend this one issue.  This proposed plan is about whether we can still worship and serve together in ministry as we all seek to grow in our faith, in our relationships, and continue to learn from one another.

Here are a few facts to provide additional context to what you may have heard:

  • The plan is a proposal to be discussed and debated at General Conference in Minneapolis in May 5-15 2020.  While the group who proposed the plan is comprised of well-respected leaders in the denomination, it does not have authority to implement any plan.  That can only be decided at General Conference.  The plan has to be translated into legislative language and reviewed by the United Methodist Judicial Council before being considered at General Conference.
  • Indeed, currently it is one of several plans that have been submitted for consideration.  We suspect that some or all of the previously-submitted plans may be rescinded or altered, now that this latest proposal has come to light, but that is yet to be seen.  Several of those other plans were summarized in our presentation in November, and the denomination this week published a helpful comparison of the plans currently under consideration (see links below).
  • The proposal includes several elements that may prove contentious (not the least of which is the exchange of funds).  It is possible that the plan could go through extensive amendment once debate begins at General Conference.

So, in short, this is not yet a “done deal.”  To be clear, we are indeed optimistic that this plan could lead to a breakthrough on a deeply divisive issue.  We suggest some caution, however, until it becomes closer to reality.  Our bishop, Tracy Malone, said as much in her letter to the East Ohio Conference earlier this week (see a copy of her letter below).

If you want to learn more about this issue, we have included links below to material that we found helpful.  And of course, if you want to speak with someone, we both welcome the chance to talk.

In Christ,

Rev. Hoyte Wilhelm, Pastor

Andrew Walsh, Our Faithful Journey Leader

===== Sources to explore more about this matter =====

The proposal, Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation.

Frequently Asked Questions about the proposal from the United Methodist Council of Bishops.

Slides from the NOUMC November presentation.

Comparison of Proposals to General Conference 2020 from United Methodist News.

A 35-minute discussion with Adam Hamilton, Pastor of the largest UM church in America and a religion reporter from the New York Times, from the NPR program 1A. “The Split Within The Methodist Church Over LGBTQ Inclusion.” 

===== Bishop Malone’s Letter to the East Ohio Conference =====

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” – Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Earlier today, a press release was issued on behalf of a United Methodist mediation team, comprised of clergy and laity, proposing a way to address the impasse within the denomination regarding matters of human sexuality.

I strongly encourage all clergy and laity to visit the Conference website and read the release – and the links contained within it – to gain a full understanding of what is being proposed. I ask that you not solely rely on news of the release shared through broadcast and social media.

The faithful group submitting today’s proposal joins other faithful groups across our beloved United Methodist Church who have already submitted petitions to be considered by delegates to the General Conference, which meets May 5-15 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

General Conference is the only body that can set official policy and speak for the denomination. The General Conference delegates who were elected by their respective annual conferences are given the responsibility to review and make decisions on all matters and petitions before the Conference. Bishops preside over the sessions of General Conference but do not vote.

A lot of work has been done, and is still being done, by many faithful United Methodists to prepare for General Conference 2020.

I ask that you continue to pray for The United Methodist Church and pray for the delegates as they do their best work on behalf of the denomination and for the sake of the mission of The United Methodist Church and our witness in the world.

While we do not know the outcome of General Conference 2020, we do know that we serve a faithful God who leads us and guides us and through whom all things are possible. Therefore, be it resolved that we remain committed to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world; and we remain faithful to live into our East Ohio Conference vision by:

  • being disciples, making disciples, and maturing disciples of Jesus Christ;
  • being God’s agents of transformation in our communities and throughout the world, and
  • being bold and courageous leaders in reaching new people, younger people, and a more diverse people.

What is the Future of the United Methodist Church?

On Sunday, November 17 we provided to NOUMC an informational update on the United Methodist Church’s ongoing conflict over the official position of the denomination regarding God’s welcome of, and how the church will be in ministry with, LGBTQ persons.  For those who were not able to attend here is a short set of slides that were used to facilitate the conversation.

During the conversation, two videos from the Church of the Resurrection 2019 Leadership Institute were shown.  If you are interested in viewing them, they can be found at www.sharechurch.org.  This will require you to set up a free account, but please note that here are many resources from the Institute that are worthy of your attention.  The two videos we shared during the information session were those from the Nollen and Lampe families.

If you are interested in learning more about any of the plans scheduled for legislative action at the 2020 General Conference, the Open Spirit Task Force (an Exploratory Body of the New England Conference) has compiled an excellent summary, which you can find here.

Also, during the session we referenced several organizations that are advocating for various positions ahead of the 2020 General Conference.  If you are interested in learning more about any of them, you can do so at the following sites:

Thanks to all who attended the session and who helped make it a success.  Please reach out to Andy Walsh or Pastor Hoyte if you would like to discuss this topic further.

What Are You Thankful For in Life?

I recently celebrated 61 years of life on October 19. Time flies by from decade to decade! I am coaching myself with a positive mindset: “The 60’s are the new 40’s.” Well, maybe, I should be realistic and say: “the new 50’s!” However, I am thankful for having another year of life with the hopes of many more birthdays.

None of us know for sure how many years we will have on this earth but we are assured of the promise of eternal life as made known in great part with the scripture from John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Those are hopeful and promising words that each of us can be thankful for and rely on in our walk as children of God.

What are you thankful for in life? That was the question my mother often asked of everyone seated around the table on Thanksgiving Day when she and my father hosted the family meal in their home. Three themes of thanksgiving often emerged in the time of sharing from my parents, siblings, in-laws, and the grandchildren: faith, family, and friends. We reminded one another not to take such things for granted as so many people yearn for and desire the same things.

In particular, as I write this article, I am also thankful for at least four other things: being blessed to have another day to live and share with others, having a birthday on the same day of the month that my son was born, serving in joy with people of North Olmsted UMC, and the fact that snowflakes in northeast Ohio are not flying around yet which means that I might have one or two more opportunities to get my boat out on the water!

One of the exercises I am practicing more in my daily life and encourage you to practice is to name three things that you are thankful for each day. What will you name each day that leads you to be thankful for what God is blessing you with in life?

In thankfulness for each one of you,

Pastor Hoyte

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:15

How Are You Communicating with Your Words and Actions?

One of the most significant things I learned from my mother is to live her favorite scripture:

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31). My mother and I know, as I imagine you do, too, that this scripture—The Golden Rule—is sometimes difficult to practice in everyday life.

Who among us has not fallen short in communication and actions consistent with The Golden Rule? Perhaps you have said or done something that was intentionally or unintentionally hurtful or harmful to a family member, friend, acquaintance, colleague, or stranger? Maybe you have hurt or harmed someone in a one-on-one conversation, in a group setting, over the phone, with an email, or through social media?

God forgives us when we ask for forgiveness in falling short in our treatment of others. However, God also expects each of us to live as best as possible the words of Jesus in The Golden Rule.

The United Methodist Church provides excellent guidelines for how we should treat people individually and collectively in all times and places. And so, I encourage you to join me in working to practice the guidelines as described in the article below consistent with The Golden Rule.

*Guidelines for Holy Conferencing: What God Expects of Us

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:12-16a, 17).

Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.

  • As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
  • Listen patiently before formulating responses.
  • Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
  • Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions. Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
  • Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking. This is especially important when you disagree with a position.
  • Avoid using inflammatory words, derogatory names, or an excited and angry voice.
  • Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups. Make your point with specific evidence and examples. · Make use of facilitators and mediators.
  • Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God – not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.
  • We believe Christians can discuss important issues without the acrimonious debate and parliamentary maneuvering that can divide a group into contending factions. We see too many examples of that in secular society. We believe the Holy Spirit leads in all things, especially as we make decisions. We want to avoid making decisions in a fashion that leaves some feeling like winners and others like losers.
  • We can change the world through honest conversation on matters about which we are passionate.”

*(This work is based on the guidelines for “Holy Conferencing” that emerged from the United Methodist “Dialogue on Theological Diversity” in February 1998 and continues to be practiced by many United Methodists today.)

How Are You Communicating with Your Words and Actions?

Pastor Hoyte