This course will immerse the participants –PSR UMC Master of Divinity students and other UMC clergy and lay members — in the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in St. Louis, MO, February 23-26 2019.

Participants are being introduced to the theological disputes around human sexuality and the controversy surrounding the current stance adopted by the United Methodist Book of Discipline, according to which “homosexuality” is “incompatible with Christian teaching”and the ban on ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

These participants will have the unique chance to be present for this historic moment in the life of the United Methodist Church, participate in activities with seminarians from other United Methodist seminaries, and engage in the task of “conferencing,” a landmark process of discernment in the Wesleyan traditions.

On February 15, a service of commissioning was held in the Chapel of the Great Commission attended by the PSR community and members of area UMC churches. PSR President David Vásquez-Levy offered the support of the school and community: “To our students and those who will go together to the General Conference, you go with the prayers of our community who stand with you as you hold this difficult conversation. You go with our prayers and also our support.”

The commissioning was led by The Rev. Israel Alvaran (PSR DMin ’10), ordained Elder in the Philippines Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church and Western Regional Organizer, Reconciling Ministries Network, an organization seeking the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in both the policy and practices of the UMC. (Read a recent commentary on life as an LGBTQ Methodist by Rev. Alvaran.)

This is a “historic moment in the life of the United Methodist Church,” Dr. Maia states. “It is historic because what the denomination is now facing is a result of a long process marked by unresolved tensions and theological and ecclesial disputes.” He adds that the historic nature of the events in St. Louis will shape the future of global Methodism with “repercussions that are still unforeseeable to us.”

In this multicultural and multireligious world, effective spiritual leadership requires humility, knowledge, perspective and skill that come from engagement with diverse communities and contexts. Community Engaged Learning (CEL) links theological education with local and international communities.

As part of Community Engaged Learning, Pacific School of Religion’s Immersive Learning Program provides a link between the seminary and diverse communities throughout the Bay Area, the Pacific, and the world.

Through immersing themselves in courses on Faith and Public Policy in Washington, DC, Spiritual Accompaniment in Colombia, Arts and Cultural Memory in New York, Roots of Immigration in Guatemala, Social Transformation in Action in the SF/Bay Area, and others, CEL faculty assist students in developing a practice of contextually aware engagement and critical theological reflection, learning from and with marginalized communities.


by Judy Cayot  Downtown St. Louis was cold and desolate the day after GC ended, reflecting my mood. As I walked there, our pastor, Kristin texted me asking how I was. I replied, “sitting with grief and joy. They are old friends.” That is where I am still. Great joy at seeing many long-time friends from across this country whom I have known because of our connectional church – in fact Anna Blaedel, who was an intern here at Epworth in 2005-6, asked me to give her love to EVERYONE at Epworth. Grief at what feels like the breaking apart ... Read More
Alyss Swanson, a transgender United Methodist deacon from San Jose, Calif., speaks with Bishop Samuel Quire, from Liberia, during the General Conference of the United Methodist Church on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, at America's Center. Bishop Quire said people can not speak freely about their sexual orientation in Liberia, unlike the way people talk openly in the United States ... Read More
Today started out very difficult. I could feel the fatigue from the early morning and the late nights from the first two days of the conference. The morning meeting was interesting how the history of the church used to be convergent or the people had similar thoughts of unity and how life revolved around the church, but through generations that conflict would sometimes reverse each other in feelings and beliefs and became a divergent body. The debates used to work when the church was converging but now the church and generational thoughts are diverging, which means the debates no longer ... Read More
In St. Louis, Missouri today, February 26th, 2019. Am traveling with our Immersion Class from Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, California with our Professor, Filipe Maia with group of 16 students. I count it as a blessing to be with this lovely group and in this historical event, the UMC General Conference 2019. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank PSR and to all the churches and everyone that sponsored our Immersion Class. With their love and support we were able to be here today to learn and to witness and experience this historical moment. Today in St. Louis, ... Read More
Today, my heart cries for my United Methodist LGTBQIA brothers and sisters. While sitting in the bleachers at the St. Louis dome, I noticed that my whole body was trembling uncontrollably. I could not understand what was going on with my own body, all I could do was look up and silently pray. Pleading with the Holy Spirit to invade our space, invade our minds and to especially invade our shattered hearts. I witnessed delegates from around the world vote 438 to 384 to pass the Traditional Plan, which maintains the Scriptural teaching that sexual relationships are to be reserved ... Read More
Day 2: Monday, Feb. 25  Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in. —Leonard Cohen, “Anthem” Professor Maia shared these words of encouragement as members of our cohort checked in with each other after a very long and difficult day at General Conference, a day that ended with every indication that the United Methodist Church as we knew it would die on Wednesday. It’s not over ‘til it’s over, and I hope I’m wrong, but preliminary vetting of the various plans and petitions strongly suggests ... Read More
O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do... begins the collect for today, the second Sunday before Lent in the Church of England and part of our tradition. It is known as Sexagesima Sunday, one of three Sundays prior to Lent that previously helped count the forty days. Today this time is set aside for pre-Lenten reflection. Hold that thought as I share the first day’s reflection with you, here at the Dome in St. Louis, where we are deciding the fate of the United Methodist Church. Message from Presiding Bishop ... Read More
Immersion group meets with Bishop Minerva Carcaño during dinner with delegates and observers from the California-Nevada Annual Conference ... Read More
Day One of this special session of the General Conference was daunting.  So many things happening in such a short period of time: witnessing protestors, singing and praying, reports on the proposed plans, reviewing the rules of order, connecting with new people, electing presiding officers, prioritizing the petitions, and parsing the legislation… it all seems to go over my head. The United Methodist Church has gathered in St. Louis this weekend for a time of holy conferencing, to discern a way forward in regards to the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the life and ministry of the Church.  And yet, ... Read More
As the journey to St. Louis, Missouri was coming to an end, I peered out my plane window to see the plane descend into the clouds. The plane’s wing was shaking, while moving in and out of visibility within the clouds. If you asked me how I felt coming into the Special General Conference, I would say hazy and unclear. It was a numbness to expectation. The first day was ephemeral, lacking personal tension in the midst of a tense atmosphere of polarity. I was still in the clouds, unable to see the ground. The following cold morning, as a ... Read More