Nearly 700 clergy gathered at Otterbein University for the 2019 Clergy Session this week. This annual meeting, which focuses on the Business of the Annual Conference, included welcoming newly credentialed colleagues, celebrating those moving into retirement, and memorializing those who have died since July 1, 2018. Rev. Brian Milford, President and Chief Executive Officer of The United Methodist Publishing House, served as the featured preacher. In his opening comments, Milford acknowledged the current anxiety in The United Methodist Church.
Reflecting on John 12:23-25, Milford spoke of his love of and commitment to the church: "If indeed The United Methodist Church as we know it is changing, even dying; if a future with the current level of discord and disaffection is unsuitable and untenable; how can we let go of what was in order to plant the seeds from which new life will flourish?" Milford, a member of the Iowa Conference and a life-long United Methodist, reaffirmed his own commitment to the church. "Yet I remain committed to serving in a church that comprises an array of theological characteristics including both critical and constructive, both individual and communal and contextual, incarnational and practical. I am committed to a denomination that is open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, always being transformed and [that] honors contrary opinions and even passionate debates as long as both in our motive and in all of our actions we strive to do no harm, do good and stay in love with God."
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer invited Reverends Michaela Jasper, Matthew Brookes, Kate Smith, and Tom Rand to participate in a panel discussion about the Special Session of General Conference. Even during challenging times, each pastor shared where they experience hope in their ministry contexts. The day concluded with Communion and prayer.