United Methodist Communicators gathered last week for the 2018 United Methodist Association of Communicators Conference (UMAC), hosted in Philadelphia, Penn. The three-day gathering allowed Communications personnel from across the Connection opportunities to grow their network, strengthen their craft through engaging workshops and candid Q&As with industry professionals, and to celebrate the hard work of communicators and reward them for the unique and impressive ways they help share the message and spearhead the mission of The Church. 

On Friday, March 9, Communicators were actively engaged as critical conversation took place on “Honoring our (The United Methodist Church) history & Leading through Change,” a spirited panel discussion with an eclectic group of leaders — Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary of the General Board of Church and Society; Rev. Alfred Day III, General Secretary of General Commission on Archives and History; Rev. Robert L. Johnson, Pastor of Tindley Temple UMC; Bishop John Schol, New Jersey Episcopal Area, and moderator Skyler E. Nimmons (Communications Director, Indiana Conference). The conversation spanned an array of hot-button topics, including; the ways we’ve perceived and welcomed change throughout our history and present-day, particularly in the context of prejudice in and around The Church. More specifically, our continuing dialogue on race relations and human sexuality. 

In reference to the drastic changes United Methodists have experienced in past decades, Rev. Day stated, “As we (The UMC) chronicle change, through is a very important word in our vocabulary. We have been through fights in terms of Church governance, in terms of slavery, and birth control fights over inclusion, and openness to ethics. Our story is a story of what we have been through and history gives us the long view that in the end tells us that in the case of the present moment, we are going to make it through.”

Rev. Johnson, who would later share an impactful message on how God equips to counter times of difficulty, responded, “Our Church is going through a storm. And storms are good things because storms change landscapes. And you may not want to be displaced by a storm, but sometimes, a storm is good for displacing those things that need to be displaced. To reiterate what Rev. Day said, to me, it’s not the going in or coming out, but it’s the going through.

“Unity is a value, and context is a value. And if we neglect, either, the global world on behalf of knowing the context. Or we neglect context for the global world, we’re in trouble. It requires going through both of those things (context and unity) at the same time,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe. 

Bishop John Schol shared that change, particularly in United Methodism, has always been countered by rigid institutions: 

“Institutions don’t change. Institutions only adopt the change that has already occurred. It’s actually the people who already begin to live out the change, the institution then adopts that change.” 

He continued, “every time we pushed for unity, our Church was divided. When you attempt to honor all these contexts, you get very few boundaries. Without boundaries, you fall deeper into chaos. We have a difficult challenge, as a denomination, from even a historical point of view, because we haven’t figured out what’s the right balance between unity and context. And particularly as we become a more global Church.”

Watch this impactful and spirited Facebook Live conversation at inumc.org/facebooklivehome


UMAC Panel Discussion: Honoring United Methodist History & Leading through Change from Indiana Conference UMC on Vimeo.