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Skunk on the Table is a video, podcast and article series with a focus on simple and clear conversations about topics of interest to the Virginia Conference and denomination.

In the second episode of the series, Bishop Sue shares her thoughts on disaffiliation, advice for churches considering disaffiliation, and encouragement to clergy and laity in the Virginia Conference to be boldly United Methodist and to focus on their ministry and witness.

Bishop Sue shared in part, “I think we can do a lot more together than apart. I think it’s an ‘all hands on deck’ time for Christianity. We are losing people, and it’s time for all Christians to quit fighting each other and to be in lock-step mission to the world. That’s my hope and prayer.”

You can listen or watch the full episode now. A recap of topics from the episode are below.

What is disaffiliation?

Bishop Sue sees disaffiliation surrounding human sexuality for a limited number of churches. She views the vast number of churches in the wide center who can agree and disagree, recognizing that they can still work together and can be better for their balance in the larger United Methodist Church.

“What I want to say loudly and clearly is traditionalists are welcome. We need traditionalists.”

She told a story that shared that a bird needs both wings.

“The ideal Church, and I think the United Methodist Church is one that does this well, is two sides of the same coin. You have to have personal piety, and you have to have social holiness and there needs to be a balance and they need to be held together. So we need both parts of the Church to remind us who we are in our entirety.”

Too much focus on disaffiliation

For Bishop Sue, the Virginia Conference and its churches are too focused on disaffiliation instead of focusing on the youth, the unchurched, and the mission and the calling of the Church.

“I think every minute, every ounce of our energy should be going out and introducing people to Jesus Christ. That’s the heart of the matter, that’s what we’re here to do.”

“My understanding of the Church is that it is to be a beacon of love and joy and hope , that gathers people in and introduces them to Jesus and then lets Jesus do the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and we’ve lost that focus.”

“I think the devastation in the churches and the shredding of the body of Christ is what is most heartbreaking about this. I think it’s doing untold damage to our witness, to our future, to our connection, and to our very calling. I plead to our churches: Get back to our basic business and Christ will sort the rest out.”

LGBTQ inclusion:

“I ask the Church to consider. I wasn’t always a centrist on this issue, with regards to LGBTQ folks until I had some many faithful, Godly, amazing LGBTQ leaders in my churches. Sometimes you just have to listen to the Holy Spirit. You don’t have to agree with me. But I just wish you would give the Holy Spirit a chance and talk to the very fine LGBTQ folks in our churches and see the depth of their relationships and see the love they have for Christ and His Church.”

Churches considering disaffiliation:

Bishop Sue urges churches who are considering disaffiliation to talk about what is great about The United Methodist Church and the connected system and pray and think deeply before moving to disaffiliation.

Bishop Sue also brought up that groups who are presenting alternatives to the UMC should not need to create fear and run smear campaigns to encourage people to join.

“If you are being motivated by fear [to leave the United Methodist Church] or you’re being motivated by threats or you’re being motivated by negativity, pray and think about it. I don’t understand leadership by fear or leadership by anger or leadership by negativity. I don’t think that reflects the fruits of the spirit or I don’t think that reflects Jesus Christ. I hope folks will really pray and think about this and not just jump on the bandwagon.”

The Trust clause is about legacy: 

“I want people to understand, first of all, that the trust clause is a good thing. John Wesley inserted the first trust clause in the Book of Discipline because churches shouldn’t they all be held in trust for the Church? That’s why sadly when churches close and they can no longer function, there’s a legacy.”

“I’m trusting that The United Methodist Church and this faith will outlive me.I think the trust clause is a way we invest in the future.”

To UMC Clergy and Laity: Be boldly UMC

“If you’re a United Methodist clergyperson, I expect you to be speaking on behalf of the United Methodist Church, and I expect you to be filtering [out] information into your church that is negative and against the United Methodist Church.”

The United Methodist heritage:

“He [John Wesley] broke every rule because he totally defied the rules. The Church said, ‘you are appointed to a parish’ and John Wesley said, ‘the world is my parish, so I’ll go anywhere God calls me to preach.’ And he did. And people who had never heard the Gospel flocked to him and he created a movement that came to this country and that’s what we’re a part of. That’s our legacy. That’s our heritage. A movement of connected churches, of connected followers of Jesus where we do work together and have this great vision of a web of relationships that goes around the world. All of us wearing the name United Methodist and being in mission together in very different places.”

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