Dear Friends in Christ,
One thing I have learned in the short time that I have been your episcopal leader is that there are deep relationships that span theological lines in this Conference. Although there is an understanding that some churches and pastors will feel called to align with other expressions of Methodism, based on views and theological perspectives related to sexuality, there is also a value and desire to create a vision for the continuing United Methodist Church in the Dakotas. A UMC that is inclusive of traditionalists, centrists, and progressives, believing that our diversity enhances our movement and our witness to the world. Creating that vision requires deep listening. And so, to assist me and Conference leadership in this process, I am creating a special task force that will function in tandem with the Strategy Team.
The purpose of the Strategy Team has been and will continue to be focused on how we might imagine new ways of shared mission and ministry across denominational lines as well as how we can support and equip churches and leaders in navigating future changes in our denomination. This new task force will focus on beginning to clarify and articulate the vision and values for those who feel called to remain in the Dakotas Conference of The United Methodist Church.
I will work with the Dakotas Conference District Superintendents and Extended Cabinet this summer to identify individuals who can reflect the diversity of this Conference - diversity of age, race, gender, sexuality, church size, and geography. However, beyond making diversity simply about those persons named to the task force, I will also charge this group with joining me in identifying ways to listen to voices across this diversity spectrum throughout the Conference. I will also ask them to share with me and the Annual Conference what they are hearing and discerning.
Therefore, I am calling for nominations of people, both lay and clergy, to serve on the Dakotas Conference Continuing UMC Task Force. We envision that the task force will meet bi-weekly as we begin our work. I invite self-nominations and nominations from others. Please fill out this form by August 15, 2021. All names and information will be held in confidence.
Though we may not know exactly what the future looks like, I believe this group can help move forward the important work of becoming a diverse and inclusive United Methodist Church where those members who disagree on issues of theological interpretation will still worship together and do mission and ministry together, will still work to welcome, affirm, and empower people to live out their calling as beloved children of God, and will still strive to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Bishop Laurie Haller
The United Methodist Church