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Highlights of our August 2019 Issue:
  • Our Stories: 11 Great Plains churches participated in Pride
  • Resistance: Participate in National Coming Out Day Sunday on Oct. 13
  • Resources: Four Commitments of UMCNext Conversations
  • Across the Connection: UMCNext National, Leadership Institute, Mainstream UMC surveys, UMW advocacy
Across the Great Plains this summer, our churches organized and participated in community Pride events. Pride is a celebration and affirmation of LGBTQ+ people, as well as a long-time resistance to the injustice and oppression LGBTQ+ people experience. In light of the harm 2019 General Conference caused to our LGBTQ+ siblings, we are proud that at least 11 (nine for the first time!) of our Great Plains churches participated (or will participate) in their local Pride events as a faithful witness of God’s love for ALL people.

A newly formed network of inclusive churches in Omaha (Omaha First UMC, Saint Paul Benson UMC, Urban Abbey UMC, Hanscom Park UMC, St. Luke UMC, and St. Andrews UMC) offered a Methodist witness of about 200 marchers collectively at Heartland Pride Parade and Festival in Omaha. They celebrated Holy Communion at the end of the parade route for anyone who felt called to participate. The energy and solidarity of having so many United Methodists join together for Pride is an encouragement to us all!

Lincoln Saint Paul UMC participated in StarCity Pride Festival in Lincoln for the first time. Their booth and participation offered two days of festival fun and meeting thousands of new friends!

Two Kansas counties hosted their first ever Pride celebrations. Cowley County Pride took place in Winfield and about 30 folks from Grace UMC hosted a water balloon fight and rainbow tie-dying station of shirts that said "Love Your Neighbor." The inaugural Johnson County Pride Picnic took place in Lenexa, and St. Paul's UMC handed out bottles of water. The leftover water from the event was then used at the KC Lights for Liberty event working toward immigration justice.

Wichita Pride was attended by individuals from several area churches. West Heights UMC had a small group of marchers and hosted a Pride potluck and Holy Communion with about 25 in attendance from various churches.

Topeka Pride does not happen until September, but we have already learned there is a team from Topeka First UMC planning their participation.

Do you have stories to share about how you are living out the four commitments of UMCNext right here in the Great Plains? Send us your story!
An invitation to collective resistance to celebrate National Coming Out Day at your church on Sunday, October 13 from our Resistance Team leader, Rev. Debra McKnight, founding pastor of Urban Abbey in Omaha, NE:

National Coming Out Day began in the late 1980’s as a positive voice in a world of harsh tones and cruel boxes that keep folks fearfully in "their place." I began celebrating this holiday when I was working on my Masters in Education and studying the impact of heterosexist language in the secondary school climate. It was my favorite celebration at SMU, when I advised the GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) on a campus that was at the time ranked #2…in a way no one wants to be ranked: least affirming college campus in the US by the Princeton Review. So we hosted a worship service in Perkins Chapel and planned a lunch after. It had to be a great lunch, no brown bags or sad deli platters. We were making a statement about a big loving welcome. But no one on campus would pay for “Lunch on the Lawn,” so the UCC church bought us rainbow balloons, and my Mom drove from Nebraska with Brisket and Cheesy Potatoes for our GSA to have a feast on Bishop Boulevard. It was beautiful and right there in front of God and everybody, but with the protection of the street surrounding the green space so no one could hear the comments other students might make. It was such a hit the President of the University invited me to "chat," and when he asked how this happened, I told him about the forms we completed and the offices that signed off. It turns out sometimes paper work does make a difference.  
 
As much as I love National Coming Out Day for the ways I have seen young people heavy with worry lighten in a safe space or folks who hear the worst from the world finding a a new song of worth, dignity and value, I wish it didn’t exist. It is a space of care, lament, remembering, dreaming and working for a different world. We are a part of the imperfect world. Our churches have blessed and wounded. Our Bible has been weaponized for the status quo, and our church has in its most recent General Conference taken a step backwards and inflicted harm. We are called in a multitude of ways to repent, transform and dream our church anew. 
 
So let’s hold sacred space on National Coming Out Day this year. Join with me and as of now 12 other Great Plains congregations on October 13th. Doing this together sends a message of solidarity and shows the strength of our connection.

We have a few goals:
  1. Create sacred space to lift up LGBTQIA+ people - acknowledge rights, lament abuses and brokenness, move from welcoming to affirming, develop better language and support within the congregations, and repent and dream of earth as it is in heaven.
  2. Grow our local congregations through intentional community outreach, partnership, invitation, and building new relationships. 
  3. Connect our Great Plains congregations - we are not alone in our work and in our willingness to resist the evil, injustice, and oppression of the traditional plan. We will create resources for worship to share and if you have questions I am happy to help you think through your planning.  
Next month we will include resources and ideas for how to celebrate National Coming Out Day at your church. Let me know if your church is going to participate or if you have any questions, so we can coordinate together!

Thanks for considering,

Rev. Debra McKnight
Have you had a conversation at your church about the UMCNext Commitments?
There are many ways for you to engage the four commitments of UMCNext right where you are. Here are some suggestions for how to get started:
  • Incorporate these commitments into your daily prayer life. Where is God calling you to respond?
  • Your story matters! The most powerful witness you can offer is your own story.  If you would like additional tips for story-telling, we recommend checking out Reconciling Ministries Network's guide.
  • Share the commitments on your social media outlets and include your own personal story of why they are important to you.
  • Laity-specific:
    • Invite a small group, Sunday School class, or ministry team you are a part of to discuss them. 
    • Share the four commitments on your social media outlets and why you support them.
    • Talk to your pastor about why these commitments are important to you. Encourage them to offer their own response. Ask them their own journey around LGBTQ+ inclusion in the UMC. Everyone has a story!
  • Clergy-specific:
    • Invite a colleague into conversation. Utilize the gift of the connection and the relationships you've formed to keep the conversations going. What parts of these commitments can you agree on? Where do you differ?
    • Tell your district superintendent that you affirm the four UMCNext Commitments. 
    • Lead a small group discussion about them.
    • Invite your church council to discuss and adopt the commitments as a church.
The Resource Team is currently gathering all kinds of tools to extend the work of inclusion in our local churches. Book recommendations, discussion guides, worship resources, youth group guides, and a GP UMCNext website are all in the works! Stay tuned.
UMCNext National - Here you will find the four commitments of UMCNext and links to what is happening in the larger connection.

Leadership Institute - The theme of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection's Leadership Institute this year is "Discerning the Future of the United Methodist Church." Registration is limited to two people per congregation to ensure that at least 1,500 churches can participate.

United Methodist Women announced this past July it is awarding two $50,000 grants to The Trevor Project and the Tyler Clementi Foundation for their work to prevent LGBTQ youth suicide. 

Mainstream UMC shared four blog posts with the results of their survey taken by more than 13,000 people regarding hopes for the future of the church. Mainstream UMC and its director, Rev. Mark Holland are located right here in the Great Plains.
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