To facilitate discussions about preparing for the Way Forward and understanding the differing perspectives regarding human sexuality, a diverse Florida Conference team of clergy and laity has created a structured, conversational experience called “Point of View” (POV).
It is designed to equip participants to grow in empathy, have a broader understanding of different points of view and to create generative dialogue around challenging conversations. Early this year, POV was beta tested in three churches, and conference-wide launch for the initiative is March 5.
“POV gatherings give us the space as United Methodists in Florida to develop empathy and trust in conversations about human sexuality,” Bishop Ken Carter said. “We are trying to create an alternative to the divisive spirit in our culture.
“All churches, including ours, are to understand LGBTQ+ identity in light of scripture and in a context of prayer. This is about listening, and not coercion; deeper fellowship, and not partisanship. I am very grateful for the spiritual maturity of the people of the Florida Conference.”
|A "Point of View" group at New Hope, Brandon, works on an exercise. -Photos by John Kazaklis|
The supporting materials for a one- or three-session experience include a participant field guide, slides, interviews with Bishop Carter, videos, facilitator guidelines and promotional items. All the materials will be available to churches digitally in March, and requests for them can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Train-the-facilitator materials are being developed.
First Mt. Dora and First Port Orange are in the process of beta testing POV using lay facilitators, in collaboration with their pastors, who were trained by the POV design team. New Hope UMC in Brandon completed a three-session event in January facilitated by members of the POV design team.
“One of my goals for the members of New Hope, as we did the POV beta test, was to appreciate that no matter what their position on human sexuality was (or any controversial issue), that it's important for us to understand another person's perspective,” Senior Pastor Rev. Jamie Westlake said.
“As we wrestle with any difficult issue as the Body of Christ, one of my favorite sayings is: ‘In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.’ That serves as a reminder to me that even when I don't agree with people on something I believe is essential, I'm never off the hook to love them,” he added. “We can disagree without being disagreeable as we discern the Way Forward.”
All churches are invited to participate in POV and are encouraged to structure and schedule it in a way that best fits their congregations. Some churches might want to team up for an event or start the POV experience with their leadership teams before inviting a wider audience.
“Local congregations have a valuable opportunity to model for the wider culture how to have honest and constructive conversations about polarizing issues, without dehumanizing others whose perspectives differ from our own,” said Rev. Magrey DeVega, senior pastor of Hyde Park UMC. “The POV event can help nurture the kind of empathetic dialogue that both honors our differences and promotes inclusivity, while advancing the work of God’s mission.”
“POV gatherings are allowing us to have difficult conversations around human sexuality that people are often avoiding. This is a way to have a much needed and healthy conversation,” added Molly McEntire, leader of Florida’s General Conference delegation. “It is time we have the conversations that have been avoided for so long. It is a way for us to understand and have empathy towards each other, to grow in relationship with each other and a way for us to grow in understanding and for love for one another.”
The curriculum was designed in collaboration with the Lakeland, Florida, consulting firm We Are Curio. The company specializes in the discipline of design thinking, innovation and generating solutions to complex problems.
Click here for information and updates from the Commission on the Way Forward, which was proposed by the Council of Bishops and approved by the 2016 General Conference to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.