Members of the Texas Annual Conference gathered in a whole new way during the Annual Conference 2023 – seated around a table. The afternoon of Tuesday, May 30th was reserved for “Holy Conversation at the Table” – the perfect space for intimate discussions facilitated by the Conference Leadership Team.

Members explored a number of different questions and possible pathways for the future. First, they considered: how might we grow in our trust together after so much conflict and division? And, what does integrity mean to you?

Discussions also centered on how we can live together as a church in the midst of our differing understandings of human fulfillment. How might we instill and maintain the values of diversity, unity, integrity and transparency as we move forward?

For the afternoon discussion, the bishop asked everyone to sit at a table where they did not know anyone. Afterwards a member of the TAC was overheard saying, “I sat down at the table not knowing a single soul, but I left the table feeling heard and met some new friends.”

Bishop Cynthia Harvey, who introduced the concept of roundtable discussions during the Annual Conference, has used the technique in the past to foster deeper interaction and build greater understanding.

“There is something very powerful about sharing deeply with one another around a table,” the Bishop explained. “The table is a beautiful metaphor for me. It is at the table that great meals and conversation are shared – and that disputes are settled.”

She continued, “As a family, we always had our best conversations at the table – sometimes even our strongest disagreements. But when we got up from the table, we loved one another even more.”

Sitting across from one another and listening deeply is a powerful experience, Harvey explained. “We can hear one another’s stories better if we can see one another – see into each other’s eyes and each other’s heart,” she said.

Harvey is committed to fostering a holy space that allows for members of the TAC to truly hear one another and renew their connectionalism. “This Annual Conference is prayerfully the beginning of creating holy spaces that are safe, where people are heard and seen,” she said.

Harvey asks, “Could we create an Annual Conference that chooses and declares to BE with one another and with God in new ways?” 

She said that listening to each other is an important first step as the Texas Annual Conference moves toward the future. “My prayer is that each time we gather we will set time aside for healthy dialogue that addresses some of the issues facing our church and our world,” she said.

“My prayer is that our work be holy and sacred work that can be an offering to God of our willingness and desire to be faithful to our baptismal vows.”

The Bishop sees limitless promise in meaningful dialogue. “Imagine how this could change a finance committee meeting or trustees,” she said. “Imagine how it could transform an entire Annual Conference.”