August 17, 2022

Greetings First Church family!

We are two weeks away from the beginning of phase two of our internal 2024 General Conference timeline. Wednesday, August 31, begins the fall focus on study as we offer several ways for you to be involved. The following is a description and overview of the studies. Sign-up links are below. You will see this in several places over the next couple of weeks, but we wanted to reach out directly as you have expressed interest in keeping up to date on General Conference 2024 news.

Wednesday nights at the High Street Campus will be the primary study time as we begin with a catered dinner at 5:45, group studies at 6:30, and a time with everyone together at 7:30. Yes, Wednesdays will be a long evening, but we decided to pack a night full versus asking you to commit to another time during the week.

A few facts about the studies: We will teach three different studies focusing on human sexuality. Each study is designed to complement the others. The hope is that you will commit to the full 15 weeks of studies broken into 5-week segments. The plan, right now, is to offer each of the 5-week studies side-by-side three times. Therefore, it won’t matter which study you start with. Why three times? We want these to be groups of 10-15 so you can have time to ask questions and dig deep instead of a class of 30-45 which trends toward lecture without robust class interaction. All the classes have a Zoom option.

The three 5-week studies are as follows:

The New Asceticism by Sarah Coakley - Book Study
Join Carol Cooper for this book study. Coakley’s book takes issues in contemporary theology and opens discussion to help heal wounds. Using Scripture, the early Church Fathers along with theology and philosophy, Coakley will encourage us to think deep and enter conversations we have often avoided.

The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity by Peter Brown - Book Study
Join Taylor Zimmerman, Offerings Community Pastor, as he walks through portions of this book. What did the earliest Christians believe about sexuality? What was at stake in their questions about the body, desire, and asceticism? How did they navigate the complex cultural influence of the Greco-Roman world in their earliest theologies? These questions and more will be discussed as you read through portions of this book by Peter Brown.

Authority of Scripture and Bible Passages addressing Human Sexuality
Join Chad Foster & Todd Nelson as they walk through Scripture and spend time addressing questions related to Scriptural Authority and human sexuality. They will be using the Bible and also referring to NT Wright’s book, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today.

After the studies, we will come together as a large group for a 30 minute presentation on the pressing issues of the General Conference and its potential impact on First United Methodist Church Lexington. There will be time for questions and answers after each presentation.

For those wanting a deep dive on the theology of human sexuality, Taylor Zimmerman will be teaching a 12-week class at the Andover Campus on Thursday evenings from 6:00 - 7:30. Taylor beta tested the class over the summer and received enthusiastic reviews and solid feedback on how to enhance the class for the fall. The reading load is significant but doable and Taylor does a wonderful job summarizing the reading and leading the discussion.

You will notice that we do not have Sunday options for the studies. That is on purpose as we are doing our very best to keep Sunday focused on worship and our on-going small groups. We know full well that not everyone will want to be involved in the studies and we want to honor their choice. But, as we take the next step along the path to General Conference 2024, the next few months will be as important as any in determining our ultimate direction. We cannot encourage all of us enough to make this a priority and bring others with you who have a desire to learn and be involved.

All our best,

Pastoral Lead Team
Carol, Chad, Jennifer, Taylor, and Todd

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