Devotion series focuses on spiritual preparation for GC2019
Delegates and conference leaders, both clergy and laity, have joined together to create 28 Acts Devotion. The digital devotion series is designed to prepare United Methodists in Oklahoma for the 2019 General Conference, which will address the denomination’s stance on human sexuality.
Derrek Belase, director of discipleship, said the idea for a devotion series came after people asked him about spiritual preparation for General Conference.
He considered waiting to see if denominational resources would be made available, but ultimately decided to explore a biblical story where the faith community had to decide how to move forward in the midst of deep-seeded differences: the book of Acts. He spoke with the delegation, and they confirmed the idea of creating the deovtion series.
“This desire of people in our annual conference was, how do we prepare for this?,” Belase said. “Focusing on the book of Acts seemed to be one way to do that.”
The devotion series aims to help clergy, laity, conference leaders and church members “reflect on what pulled the (early) church forward in a time of great upheaval and cultural change.”
Rev. Linda Harker, lead pastor at Norman-McFarlin and head of the Oklahoma delegation to General Conference, said examining the early church’s struggle for unity can remind people about the essentials of faith.
“I hope that (this preparation) keeps us grounded in what it means to be the church and what it means to be united, and that these devotions will simply lead us through the story of the early church and remind us of how we got where we are,” Harker said. “We’re not the first to go through challenges, and scripture shows us a way through.”
Harker, who authored the first week’s devotion, said everyone should be in prayer about General Conference whether or not they believe the outcome will affect them personally.
“Because we are a connectional church and what affects one person affects the entire body, it’s important for us to be as spiritually grounded as we can be when we enter into a time of discernment, like the early church who came together in the midst of all their differences,” Harker said. “They were able to keep their focus on what was really important: to take care of one another and to share the good news and to follow the way of Christ.”
Identity in Christ
Rev. Valerie Steele, lead pastor at Stillwater-Highland Park, said pastors can use the devotion series to discuss the Way Forward with their congregations.
“Something is going to happen in February 2019, and no matter what, it is going to affect us all,” Steele said. “I would hate for any church members who did not have the opportunity to discuss this or ask questions to be blindsided because we felt it was too uncomfortable to talk about.”
Steele hopes that devotion will help people focus on the church’s collective identity in Christ, emphasizing the need for the church to continue the work of making disciples.
“Acts is constantly reminding us we have a job to do, and we need to be about our father’s business,” she said. “This devotional helps us to remember intentionally that God is still speaking, and because God is still speaking, we need to be ready to hear.”
While she acknowledges the possibility of a schism, Steele believes the most important thing is to continue to fulfill the mission of Christ.
“If we’re going to get stuck on anything, let’s get stuck on who we are and what our purpose is on God’s earth on this side of glory,” Steele said. “The big question for us is can we still be faithful to what God has called us to be as disciple makers for Jesus Christ around the world, even if (General Conference) doesn’t turn out exactly the way we would want it to be.”
The series is sent via email every Monday and published on the conference’s website and Facebook page. Sign up for the devotion online here.