United Methodist Insight was conceived in November 2011 in the midst of loss and turmoil. Now, after the turmoil and loss of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, a new vision is emerging for this online forum that we hope will serve those who will discern and enact the future of the global United Methodist Church.
The loss that bred UM Insight was at first intensely personal. In November 2011 it became apparent to the directors of TPC Publications Inc., that The Progressive Christian magazine, an award-winning international religion journal of which I was editor, was financially unsustainable after nearly two centuries of publishing. The decision to suspend the publication indefinitely was particularly grievous to New England United Methodists, where TPC's predecessor, Zion's Herald, was founded in 1823.
As TPC's last editor, I was solemnly going about the business of shutting it down when God stepped in, acting through the agency of a number of people who cared about two things: the future of United Methodism, and my vocation as a God scribe (to my unending gratitude).
Concerns borne out
For months many of us had been participating in online and offline groups organized mainly in reaction to the Council of Bishops' Call to Action initiative and to the Connectional Table's restructuring proposal. We could go so far as to say our concerns were borne out by the results of the 2012 General Conference.
However, much valuable input from online discussions, blogs, Twitter, Facebook posts and other social media was being lost in the Internet's free-floating, bewildering and ephemeral nature. That's when inspiration struck during a telephone conversation with a colleague: What if the online discussion and resources about General Conference issues could be compiled in a single place for decision-makers' convenient use?
That "one place" became United Methodist Insight, founded with the help of a grant from the Joe B. and Louise P. Cook Foundation, the sponsorship of St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Mesquite, Texas, and an array of some two dozen volunteer advisers across the United States. Many of these advisers had been writing and speaking about United Methodist issues, and generously contributed and recommended articles regularly.
Since it was originally focused on General Conference, we all (especially me as project coordinator) anticipated that UM Insight would serve a short-term purpose and then be retired sometime after the 2012 session ended. However, several things happened:
UM Insight's performance vastly exceeded our wildest dreams. The influence of our one-stop information source skyrocketed far beyond anyone's expectations, based entirely upon reader response. In just a few short months, thanks to the aforementioned contributions and weekly e-newsletters, UM Insight's collection of original and reprinted articles had direct effects on General Conference proceedings. By focusing like a laser beam on the concerns of United Methodists for the church's future, we opened a limitless forum not constrained by the denomination's structure or goals. Unleashed in this way, information gained limitless energy.