Nov. 22 to be Day of Holy Conversation

In response to Bishop Young Jin Cho's request that the Virginia Conference Common Table for Church Vitality facilitate conversation around the conference on the subject of human sexuality, the Common Table announced that it will hold "A Day of Holy Conversation on Sexuality and The United Methodist Church" on Saturday, Nov. 22, 9:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., at Woodlake UMC, 15640 Hampton Park Drive, Chesterfield.

Click here to view video archive
9:30-11:30 a.m., 1-2:15 p.m.
and 3:15-3:45 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

The day of conversation will also be live streamed to 12 additional sites across the conference. All Virginia Conference clergy and laity are invited to participate at one of the sites. Deadline to register is noon on Monday, Nov. 17.

Follow proceedings of the "Day of Holy Conversation" and post your own comments on Facebook and Twitter. Virginia Conference Facebook page is Follow the Virginia Conference @vaumc on Twitter at Participate in the conversation by using hashtag #holytalk.

Sites where the event will be live streamed are: Burke UMC (Alexandria District), Korean UMC of Greater Washington (Arlington District), Fairview UMC (Danville District), Blacksburg UMC (Roanoke District), Braddock Street UMC (Winchester District), Ebenezer UMC (Fredericksburg District), Franktown UMC (Eastern Shore District), St. Luke’s UMC (York River District), Verona UMC (Harrisonburg District), Thalia UMC (Elizabeth River District), Timberlake UMC (Lynchburg District) and High Street UMC (James River District). In addition live streaming of the event will be available through the Virginia Conference website.

  Click here to download a list of
  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Day of Holy Conversation will include a message from Bishop Cho, remarks by a convener, morning and afternoon presentations and designated times for conversations among participants that will be guided by the convener or a selected facilitator.

Dr. David Anderson Hooker to serve as convener

Convener for the Day of Holy Conversation will be Dr. David Anderson Hooker, Senior Fellow for Community Engagement Strategies at the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia. As a mediator and facilitator for the past 30 years, Hooker has helped individuals, congregations, organizations, communities and local and national governments conduct important conversations on difficult subjects.

The guiding question for the Day of Holy Conversation will be: “In light of concerns being expressed in different areas of the connection of The United Methodist Church and in society as a whole regarding human sexuality, how can we move forward in mission and ministry together?”  Follow-up questions will be given to the presenters by the convener as prepared by the Presenter Committee and culled from written questions submitted by event participants.


The morning presentations will focus on the first part of this question: “In light of concerns being expressed in different areas of the connection of The United Methodist Church and in society as a whole regarding human sexuality.” Morning presenters will be the Rev. Rob Vaughn, representing Virginia Reconciling United Methodists and the Virginia Conference chapter of Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA);  the Rev. Greg West, representing the Virginia Conference Evangelical Fellowship; and the Rev Tom Berlin, selected by the Common Table to represent a “centrist position” regarding human sexuality. Following presentations, Dr. Hooker will ask clarifying questions and lead a discussion among the presenters.

The afternoon presentation will focus on the second part of this question: “How can we move forward in mission and ministry together?” Afternoon presenters will be Vaughn, West, the Rev. Regina Anderson-Cloud, selected by the Common Table to represent a “centrist position,” and Virginia Greer, a senior student at Shenandoah University chosen by the Virginia Conference Young Adult Council leadership to represent a young adult perspective. Rives Priddy from Virginia Reconciling United Methodists and Virginia Conference MFSA, and the Rev. Bruce Johnson from Virginia Conference Evangelical Fellowship will participate in the afternoon discussion following presentations.

All presenters will covenant to:
1. Speak personally, i.e., articulate a particular point of view and the heart of the position they represent;
2. Remain open to consider something new in the exchange with other presenters and through follow-up questions and conversations;
3. Be mindful to acknowledge, within the limits of the format, a range of positions not represented by the selected presenters;
4. Be mindful to recognize points of agreement as well as points of disagreement; and
5. Seek to model a spirit of Christian dialogue for the small group conversations to follow.

Preparations began after Annual Conference

Preparation for the event began soon after the June 20-22 session of Annual Conference when members voted to "postpone indefinitely" a resolution asking the 2016 General Conference to eliminate language in the Book of Discipline calling the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."

In his Episcopal Address during the opening session of Annual Conference, Bishop Young Jin Cho had called for a plan for a conference-wide conversation on the topic of human sexuality over the coming church year. The Rev. Tom Berlin made the motion to postpone debate on the resolution in order to give the Bishop's idea a chance to work.

Work Group

On July 18, the Common Table approved formation of a work group to prepare a report in response to Bishop Cho’s request for conversation on the topic of homosexuality. The work group included four members of the Common Table (the Rev. Chris Bennett, Warren Harper, the Rev. Kathleen Overby Webster and Iris Smith), chair of the Conference Council on Young Adults (Clayton Payne), a person with a master’s degree in Conflict Resolution and Management (Danielle Light), a representative from the Evangelical Fellowship (the Rev. R. Bruce Johnson), a representative from the Methodist Federation for Social Action and Virginia Reconciling United Methodists (Rives Priddy), and a signer of "A Way Forward" (the Rev. Tom Berlin). The work group was facilitated by the director of Connectional Ministries and chair of the Common Table (the Rev. Marc Brown).

The work group presented its report at the Sept. 18 Common Table meeting, and Common Table members approved details of the event.

Advance information

Prior to the Nov. 22 event, advance information will be posted on the conference website. This information will be prepared from a variety of sources by members of the Presenter Committee and will include:
1. A historical timeline of The United Methodist Church’s history of disciplinary statements/changes on the question of homosexuality and related issues;
2. A historical timeline of selected disputed issues from our shared history and the manner in which they were resolved with a view toward identifying precedent for the present disagreements and challenges of The United Methodist Church;
3. How petitions are processed at General Conference; and
4. How to write a good petition for General Conference.

The Day of Holy Conversation will be recorded, and DVDs of the event will be distributed to be used for additional conversations in the districts and local churches. The recording of the Day of Holy Conversation will be available on the conference website.

Follow-up Resources
1. Holy Conversation Guide (pdf)
2. Historical Timeline (pdf)
3. 2016 General Conference
petition submission instructions

A guidebook will be developed for use by districts, congregations, and other groups following the Nov. 22 Day of Holy Conversation, and facilitators will be trained to lead district conversations using information that is prepared for the Nov. 22 conference Day of Holy Conversation.

After you have participated in the Nov. 22 "Day of Holy Conversation," click here to complete a short survey evaluation of your experience.
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