DALLAS—Aiming to bring alternative visions for the future of The United Methodist Church, an informal collaboration of faith-based groups and individuals has introduced a new educational website called United Methodist Insight.
Located at http://um-insight.net, United Methodist Insight gathers in one location information, perspectives, and resources regarding significant issues that will come before the 2012 United Methodist General Conference. The global legislative assembly of the worldwide denomination will meet April 24-May 4, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Some 1,000 delegates will decide the future of the Church during the 10-day gathering, which happens every four years.
Volunteer advisers from all levels of the Church will review and recommend content and design for the website. Advisers include pastors, church members, seminary professors, and representatives of groups ranging from racial-ethnic caucuses to evangelical and social justice organizations. Other United Methodists interested in serving as advisers will be welcomed in future.
United Methodist Insight is hosted by St. Stephen United Methodist Church of Mesquite, Texas, and funded by a grant from the Joe P. and Louise B. Cook Foundation of Temple, Texas. Project coordinator is Cynthia B. Astle, an award-winning United Methodist journalist and veteran of six General Conferences.
"Our goal is to provide United Methodist decision-makers with the broadest possible range of information and perspectives on these crucial issues facing our denomination," said Astle, currently editor of The Progressive Christian, a national social justice magazine founded by Methodist laymen in the 19th century. She also was the first woman editor of The United Methodist Reporter, a national newspaper for the denomination.
"All who've contributed to this educational project are committed United Methodists who care deeply about the future of the denomination," Astle said. "We face profound, complex challenges as a faith community, and we believe that only through the widest possible discourse can our elected decision-makers authentically discern God's will for the Church."
The initial content posted on United Methodist Insight includes official communications, independent articles, and commentaries by concerned pastors and church members. Topics range among church restructure, declining membership and financial resources, the global nature of the Church, and the ordained ministry. Opinion articles cover a range of viewpoints, but the project itself will not advocate for any proposal.
Future original articles will include in-depth analyses of various studies coming before the General Conference. United Methodist Insight will operate through June 30, 2012 to provide opportunity for follow-up reports, commentary, and online discussions after General Conference concludes.