Thursday, November 30, 2023

Highly Recommended Listening: Bar of the Conference Podcast

When I (David) started this blog over a decade ago, blogs were an important venue for discussing ideas related to the church, with multiple authors making regular insightful contributions. There were problems with representation in blog authorship, but it still felt like a significant medium. That has seemed less and less true over the 10 years I've written this blog, as internet ecology has changed.

However, newer forms of media have arisen to replace the blog as venues for having thoughtful conversations about the church, its mission, and its future. None of these have been more significant than the podcast. Moreover, podcasts have some real advantages over blogs. They usually take the form of dialogue, thus including more voices. Podcast hosts represent a greater range of gender and racial diversity than blogs did. They're often longer form, which provide more space for deep reflection.

There are now multiple excellent United Methodist podcasts and video podcasts. And one of the best is undoubtedly Bar of the Conference, hosted by Derrick Scott III.

The focus of Bar of the Conference is "the stories shaping the future of the United Methodist Church." It is structured as hour-long interviews by Derrick Scott of various significant United Methodists. The interviews include both personal story-telling about how the interviewees came to United Methodism as well as insightful conversation into the current realities of The United Methodist Church, including how the passage of the Traditional Plan in 2019 changed the church and how people see General Conference 2024 playing out.

Many of the people Scott interviews have personal and/or professional connections to the UMC outside the United States, including Simon Osunlana, Izzy Alvaran, Mighty Rasing, Betty Kazadi Musau, Ande Emmanuel, Lloyd Nyarota, Jeffrey Kuan, and Neal Christie. Other American interviewees have a particular interest in mission, including Tara Barnes, Katie Dawson, Cynthia Weems, and Lisa Greenwood. Racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion are also strong themes across the podcasts.

If I were starting UM & Global from scratch in 2023, I would start it as a podcast. And I would be lucky if it were nearly as good as Bar of the Conference. Bar of the Conference does a lot of the work that this blog has tried to do over the past decade, and it is doing it in a fresher, more contemporary format.


  1. However. Podcasts create real accessibility issues as well. As someone who cannot hear well enough to benefit from podcast content where creators fail to provide transcripts, I’m grateful text blogs still provide opinions and insight.

    AI driven auto transcription is available but such technology is notoriously bad if recording conditions are not optimal. And with accents of any kind outside of the white American northern accent, or dialogue that may be using uncommon vocabulary, it fails miserably.

    So it is incumbent upon podcasters to either transcribe themselves or, at minimum, clean up an auto transcription, or pay a service around $1.25/min to transcribe for you.

    Frankly, very few content creators bother.

    1. Thanks for that push back, Kirk, and for continuing to advocate for a church (and church media!) that is more inclusive of all people.

  2. David, thanks for putting forth thoughtful articles reflecting on our global connection as UMC. Bar of the conference by Derrick is indeed a great podcast and helps lift up the voices of UM leaders from the central conferences.

    In the past 5 years or so, the UMCom has done a lot of good work to cover stories, news, and developments in the central conferences. What's missing, though, is a platform where theologians, ministry practitioners, thinkers, and leaders from the central conferences could join in the worldwide conversations about matters that affect our worldwide connection.

    I think this is partly because of a few reasons such as:
    Limitations of technology and access in some central conferences.
    Power dynamics (voices not from the hierarchy may not be given more weight)
    Hesitation (for many reasons) on the part of content creators from central conferences.

    In the near future, it would be awesome to see blogs, podcasts, and even videos from central conference leaders and content creators sharing resources, offering reflections, and even issuing challenges to the worldwide church on many different issues. Maybe this already exists, but I just haven't seen it yet.