The week of May 28 to June 3 will be a special time for everyone in the Oklahoma Conference.
Not only will it include Annual Conference, but also it will be a time for all Oklahoma United Methodists to pray and fast, joining in the Council of Bishops’ initiative called Praying Our Way Forward.
A prayer by Bishop Jimmy Nunn will start the week for the Oklahoma Conference, said Derrek Belase, director of discipleship.
The bishops’ initiative seeks to surround in prayer the work of the denomination’s Commission on a Way Forward. That 32-member group, established by the 2016 General Conference, is pursuing a thorough examination and possible revision of the paragraphs in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that concern human sexuality as well as exploring options to maintain the unity of the denomination.
Each annual conference has been asked to intentionally focus one week on Praying Our Way Forward, but the conferences decide what form their participation will take, Rev. Belase said.
Materials to direct Oklahomans every day of that week in prayer and fasting have been drawn up by the leaders of this Conference’s Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation, Belase said.
Each of the eight districts also has been assigned a day to pray during that week. For example, the Northern Prairie District’s prayer theme on May 28 is "One in Christ," using Matthew 12:46-50.
The Oklahoma leaders have been dedicated in planning for this prayer week. "We really think it’s a serious thing," Belase said
Praying Our Way Forward will be lifted up visually for those attending Annual Conference, too.
Prayer guides, shaped as table tents, will be in place throughout the meeting. They include a Scripture reading, reflection, and prayer. They also feature a specific breath prayer for each day.
For example, the breath prayer for May 28 is "Lord of all, make us one in you."
Globally, two bishops of the Church co-chair this prayer movement: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference, and Al Gwinn, retired, from the North Carolina Conference/Raleigh Area.
"Our prayer focus is two-fold: We are praying that God will help us to fulfill the mission of the Church, and we are praying to be one in Christ," Bishop Wallace-Padgett said.
The Commission on a Way Forward brings together clergy and laity from nine countries and of diverse perspectives. At least three commission members are openly gay; others have long advocated for maintaining the Book of Discipline bans on same-gender unions and "self-avowed, practicing" gay clergy.
During phase 1 of the Praying Our Way Forward program, bishops prayed daily for the commission’s work. On Jan. 1, with the help of The Upper Room, United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, and United Methodist Communications, this initiative expanded and is moving across the Church.
You are invited to:
- Pray daily for the Church’s effectiveness in fulfilling its mission of making disciples and for the outcome of the Commission on a Way Forward.
- Participate in the week of prayer in the Oklahoma Conference.
- Fast weekly as you are able for The United Methodist Church and our future.
- The Upper Room website UMCprays.org helps engage all people in the prayer initiative, Bishop Gwinn said.
Also on that website, the Prayer Week Schedule shows when our Conference is praying.
View a video of bishops explaining this prayer initiative at Praying Our Way Forward: We Are One in Christ.
— Compiled by Chris Schutz
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