By Fred Koenig
This issue misses the mark. I tried – I really did. I even had a lot of help from my loyal daily journalists, Susan Sneed and Pam Ekey, and this year we were joined by a new kid, Ken Rosenhauer, who did an outstanding job.
I also had a lot of photography support, with Eric Mattson sharing his skills beyond the Parting Shot in this issue, and Dustin Bryson stepping in to help as well.
I’m confident the stories do an accurate and fair job of conveying the information that was shared at Annual Conference. And the photos help set the scene. But the magazine fails to capture the overall spirit of the Conference. I don’t think you can appreciate it without being there. I wish more people were able to experience the feelings of support and care for one another among the diverse group of people in Missouri called United Methodist.
Our connectionalism provides us mechanisms to do things together that would be difficult to do alone – things like next generation ministry, training and support for leaders, creating new places for new people, and support for our clergy. But the deeper, stronger aspect of our connectionalism is that you experience first-hand is the sense that those 1,300 clergy and laity gathered together in that exhibition center really care about each other. They care not only in the sense of how we care about all of humanity but also on a level of mutual understanding that we have so much more that unites us than divides us.
Our itinerant clergy system produces leaders that share not only ideas but experiences. When Rev. Dr. Antonio Settles was preaching for opening worship, he was not only the pastor of Saint Andrew in Kansas City – he was also the former pastor of United Methodist Churches in St. Louis. When Rev. Mike Schreiner was leading a workshop he wasn’t just a pastor of big church in O’Fallon, he’s the former pastor of Eastwood Memorial in Caruthersville. Here in Missouri we’re even in the very unique position of having a bishop who has served as pastor at a range of churches on both sides of the state.
I hope this doesn’t come across as too prideful of Missouri, but when I hear talk about denominational divide, I don’t feel it applies to us. There’s certainly a diversity of opinions around a variety of issues in the Missouri Conference, but I feel we have a mutual sense of care and respect for one another that sets us apart.
Even happy families have a hard time talking about some things. On pages 6-7 you’ll read about Bishop Farr sharing about something he would just as soon not have to discuss – the issues before us at the special called session of General Conference that will happen in St. Louis next year.
When our Conference publication was a newspaper, it featured a section of national news brought to us by the United Methodist Reporter. Occasionally there would be a news stories relating to the church’s position of human sexuality that are coming before us now. Then subscriptions would get cancelled. Those cancelling subscriptions weren’t alleging that the news coverage was inaccurate or biased. They just didn’t want their people to read about it. Because the subscribers were either entire Conferences or large churches, when someone made a decision to cancel, that person cancelling hundreds or thousands at once. They didn’t want their people to even be aware that these issues were even issues. They feared people would then talk about the issues, get mad at each other and then leave the church.
I’m confident here in Missouri we can handle talking through things in a respectful manner and remember our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world. We may find there was a good reason Missouri was chosen to host this special session of General Conference. We’ll certainly know more before we all have the opportunity to get together again for Annual Conference next year.