Our Way Forward Conversation Process

We’ve had a tremendously positive and even life-giving experience in our conversation here at Eastman First. Our conversations have been affirming, deep, meaningful, and challenging in a healthy way. It’s spurred more conversations about the nature of sin and scriptural authority, which have also been meaningful and life-giving. The conversation we’ve had here has deepened the church’s collective spirituality.

Below, I offer the steps I took in case it can be helpful to you or anyone else as we continue to have district and conference-wide conversations around this difficult topic.

Steps:

  • Dialogued with church leaders about how and when to broach the subject, beginning December, 2017. We decided to broach after the bishops released their recommendation from the CoWF in May
  • Ahead of that release, I preached a sermon about everyone being welcomed in church without doing so degrading standards. It generated much conversation both within the church and in the community; the first of those life-giving conversations. Sermon here
  • With leaders, I spent the next couple of weeks crafting a message. I also began widening the conversation by speaking with additional small groups of others around the church, trying to get a sense of how the church felt about the issue. The final conversation of that nature was with a Sunday school class I’d been teaching throughout the spring. These were some of the rich conversations I mentioned.
  • That message, crafted by church leaders and influenced by two weeks of conversing went live on the church website, out via email, and printed copies to church members we knew didn’t have electronic means. It’s available here
  • At the same time, I launched a static website (as opposed to a blog post) that had additional information and resources so people could self-educate. It’s been updated as more information has come to light. Website is here
  • I also accepted invitations to speak to this issue with three of our small groups. Those conversations were also rich. I had a total of three, all of which featured the question most oft asked throughout the process: “I’ve grown up thinking homosexuality was sinful, but I don’t know why. What does the Bible say?” I centered those conversations around Romans 1:26 because that is the scripture that both sides agree speaks to the issue. I told them how conservatives and liberals interpret the scripture to demonstrate not that one was right but to demonstrate how good people can come to differing conclusions and still be faithful Christians. There was widespread agreement on this point and that, I think, was a main reason the conversations were healthy.
  • I preached a sermon on unity. It coincided with the release of the full plans from the Commission on a Way Forward, which I added to the way forward page and which I blogged about. The blog post is here.  The sermon is here