News and Views

Conversations for a Way Forward

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By Mittie Quinn

Holding Conversations with those who differ

United Methodists from around our Annual Conference and beyond recently attended a daylong conference cosponsored by Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) and Baltimore Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists (BWARM). Some in attendance were members of MFSA, some from BWARM, some are active in both, and some are unaffiliated with either organization. Some attendees are members at churches that are part of the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN), and others attend churches that are at a different point in their discernment journey. Together, we were one body, learning from each other, growing together in fellowship that truly felt like beloved community. 

Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth

The day, entitled Inclusive Conversations for a Way Forward was designed to provide opportunities for conversations about a variety of topics that are of current concern in our denomination. The featured keynote speaker, Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth, and eight different workshops were included in the day. Workshops covered topics ranging from “How to be a Good Advocate” to “What’s Wesleyan about the Wesleyan Covenant Association?” Other workshops considered “Holding Conversations with Those Who Differ;” a history of the Methodist Church, identifying periods of exclusion and inclusion; a report from the Commission on the Way Forward and what will happen next; how our decisions as a denomination will affect our children and youth; a look at “intersectionality” and the common goals and concerns of many social justice ministries; and how we welcome strangers into our faith communities.

Mittie Quinn, Jan Lawrence (Chair - BWARM),
Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth

Rev. Dr. Bridgeforth is a clergy member and former District Superintendent in the California-Pacific Conference in the Western Jurisdiction. He is the former National Chair of Black Methodists for Church Renewal and currently serves as the liaison for that organization to the Love Your Neighbor Coalition. Dr. Bridgeforth serves as a coach, consultant, and educator among nonprofit organizations. He is a graduate of both Pepperdine University (Ph.D.) and Claremont School of Theology (M.Div.). His new book, 20/20 Leadership Lessons offers practical suggestions for leading non-profits into the next decade. Dr. Bridgeforth started the day by reminding the gathered that we cannot love “pieces and parts of people.” That isn’t love. The love that Christ teaches us means that we love the whole person and all that includes. He also reminded us that transformation and change are not the same thing. In our current context, he suggested that just because we change words in the Book of Discipline, does not necessarily mean that the church will be transformed in ways we might envision or dream.  He also repeatedly reminded the group that change is difficult, slow, requires patience, and frequently is a journey that goes both forward and at times, seems to go in reverse.

T.C. Morrow discusses how to be a good advocate

The day inspired many excellent conversations and positive energy about our United Methodist Church. Attendees left with ideas on how to hold similar conversations in their local churches and beyond. Jan Lawrence, president of BWARM, and Rev. Ken Hawes, chair of the local chapter of MFSA, suggested that there will be opportunities to continue these conversations at the MFSA/BWARM dinner at Annual Conference on Thursday, May 31 following afternoon sessions at the Baltimore Waterfront Marriott, as well as at the BWARM Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 16 at 9:30 AM - also in the Conference Center. For more information, contact