Service of Confession and Repentance

Context for the Standing Committee Recommendation for a Time of Confession and Repentance During the 2023 Annual Conference

The 2020 Standing Committee (SC) called a five-member task team with diverse theological perspectives to engage On Earth Peace (OEP) with questions from SC. These centered on the decision of OEP to join the Supportive Communities Network (SCN). Following the initial report of the task team, Standing Committee requested that the team continue the conversation with On Earth Peace in 2021. The team was asked to engage in dialogue with the OEP representatives, rather than simply ask questions and receive answers.

The 2022 Standing Committee received four recommendations that originated from the dialogue with On Earth Peace. Each of these were adopted by and required follow up by Standing Committee. The adoption of these recommendations was neither “actions regarding OEP” nor “suggestions from OEP” as some have implied. The recommendations and resulting work pertain to two broad categories: (1) the responsibilities of Standing Committee arising from the  polity statement regarding Annual Conference agencies adopted in 2022, and (2) efforts to  address larger systemic issues impacting our life together.

Beginning in 1977, the denomination has engaged in a comprehensive study and discussion of human sexuality. This produced the 1983 position statement of the denomination entitled “Human Sexuality from a Christian Perspective.” During the past four decades, this discussion has focused in great measure on the LGBTQIA+ community. This discussion has shaped the business of Annual Conference both directly and subtly in ways that have deepened pain and created division.  Standing Committee adopted the following service of confession and repentance (recommendation #4) on July 3, 2023 after a long process as a response to these experiences. This is not an apology. This is an opportunity to examine our individual and corporate roles in the dysfunction and disunity of our denomination. Each of us and all of us bear some responsibility for that dysfunction and disunity. This simple service provides the spiritual space to ponder and pray about this responsibility.

The following service includes (in italics) the statement approved by the 2022 Standing Committee.

Service of Confession and Repentance

The following statement was passed by Standing Committee at last year’s Annual Conference:

Theological differences around human sexuality have too often manifested in bullying, violence, and a general sense of dismissal toward one another and specifically toward our LGBTQIA brothers and sisters. We must redouble our efforts to live out these differences, as individuals and through our systems of governance, in ways that preserve the humanity, dignity, and deeply held spiritual convictions of all. Harsh, dismissive, unloving, and unforgiving behaviors toward one another cannot have a home among us. We recommend that a first step toward healing be taken through Standing Committee leading a significant intentional time of confession and repentance as part of Annual Conference 2023 around this specific point of failure in our relationships with one another. As is so well stated in James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”

Today we take this first step, by inviting the Holy Spirit to guide our time of silent prayer, confession, and repentance.  

Silence (4 minutes)

We know our God hears us and will help us move forward together, and that fruit will be born out of this time of confession, for the prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.