Dear South East District Friends,
Greetings in this season of annual conference preparation, last days of school and early summer planning. It is a joyful time and a busy time!
On a Monday in late May I had the pleasure of spending the day with our district clergy for a time of learning and sharing. We said farewell to pastors who will be moving this year and shared in a time of laughter, devotion and prayer. The bulk of our meeting was spent on an activity meant to deepen our empathy. It is an exercise that is a part of the Florida Conference POV (“Point of View”) initiative that is rolling out this spring and summer. Three of us in the SE District (Mason Dorsey, Vance Rains and myself) were a part of the team that created the POV and we believe it is worthy of each church’s consideration.
It is clear to see that there are various points of view within the United Methodist Church related to LGBTQ inclusion in the life of the church. We know that the next year will be significant for our denomination as decisions are made related to this issue. Here in Florida, our desire is to continue to strengthen our bonds of Christian love and mission while at the same time learning to hear and understand each other more deeply. The definition of empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” We believe communities who choose to participate in the POV experience will benefit from its quality material, guided activities and underlying desire to grow stronger bonds of empathy, love and trust.
You will notice this is not an invitation to change your mind, or to seek to change another’s mind. This is an invitation to be willing to share and listen. Understanding more deeply another’s point of view is a way we can grow in empathy. We embrace Bible stories that lift up our Lord as one who sought to truly understand the perspectives of others. We know in our own lives and servant ministry we are often required to grow in empathy with those we wish to serve. This experience will allow us to do this in more significant ways.
How can you participate? First, I would like for you to speak with your pastor. I am inviting pastors to let me know if there is interest among their churches in doing the POV as one church or a group of churches together. There are models for a three session POV or a 1 day POV. I will also be initiating some invitations around the district for churches to participate in this opportunity. Facilitators will be trained so your laity/pastor will not be leading your POV but rather have another person guiding you through the exercises in order for members of your community to fully participate in it together. I look forward to hearing from you!
Grace and peace,