Progressive-Centrist Events See Large Crowds
By: Neill Caldwell
The Progressive-Centrist coalition in Western North Carolina celebrated voting successes at 2019 Annual Conference, drawing big crowds at all its events.
The group which is fighting for full inclusion in The United Methodist Church has become more organized, active and expanded in the months following the results of the Special Called General Conference at St. Louis.
A large group, singing and waving rainbow flags, marched from the Reconciling Ministries Network lunch at the Kern Center to Stuart Auditorium along the Rose Walk on Friday afternoon. The annual RMN luncheon saw a standing-room-only crowd. Helen Ryde, the Southeastern Jurisdictional RMN representative, shared about the growth of RMN churches, groups and individuals in Western North Carolina with a map showing the new RMN locations that have been connected since General Conference in February.
RMN’s annual worship service was held following the Friday evening plenary session in Memorial Chapel and also saw an over-flow crowd. Rev. Dr. Josh Noblitt noted the crowd as compared to the modest start of the service 15 years ago. “I think we had five people, and two of them were my parents,” he said.
Revs. Carter Ellis and Darryl Dayson, both of whom were elected as clergy delegates to General Conference, brought the message from Chapter 37 of Ezekiel. Attendees also laid hands on and prayer for those persons who had been elected as delegates to the 2020 General Conference gathering in Minneapolis.
Prior to the start of Annual Conference, an informational gathering was hosted at First UMC Waynesville on Wednesday night, where the 10 people from Western North Carolina who attended the UMC Next Conference at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, spoke or led part of the meeting. The gathering included singing, prayer, biblical/theological overview and personal witness, and small group discussion was held at individual tables.
Participants who attended UMC Next talked about their experiences and the results of that gathering, with the body fairly evenly split between staying in The United Methodist Church and resisting the Tradition Plan or working to form a new expression of the Wesleyan movement.
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