The morning starts at 6:45 with showers and hotel room coffee and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich made from groceries I picked up yesterday.
As a reserve delegate to the United Methodist Church's General Conference, I get to observe most of the time, and so when I arrived at the conference at 8am, I made my way to the Superintendency committee. I’m not sure why I picked it, but there I was. Devotions were led by the committee chair and then we got down to business… mostly. The group started with two easier ones – and chose to not support an item to allow for laity to become bishops and an item that would require district superintendents to serve outside of their annual conferences. And then the fun began. 5 proposals all dealing with term limits for bishops had to be dealt with. Which would they chose? How would it affect central conferences? Are term limits a sign of distrust or a tool for effectiveness? Is being a bishop different than being an elder? The process was long, and at one point, the group decided to return to language allowing central conferences to chose their own term limits for bishops (current practice). Which then left the question of what to do with US bishops. As the debate went on, and an amendment was made by a delegate from a central conference, a woman from Germany stood to speak. She gently spoke to the fact that the committee had allowed for contextual local control for the central conferences to make their own decisions and asked that other central conference delegates would refrain from editing the proposal that was before the body so that the US delegates could make decisions about their own context. It was a gracious act of kenosis.
Lunch gave me the opportunity to sit down with other young adults and have a Q&A with Adam Hamilton about the Call to Action and Interim Operations Team proposals. Adam was extraordinarily gracious and did his best to listen and answer what he could. There were still many questions and not enough time and not enough dialogue back and forth (the format and sheer number of YP who turned up – 50+) didn’t allow for it. BUT – you could sense there was a change of feelings… it didn’t hurt that the backdrop for the conversation were the words “HEAL” – our theme scripture for the evening.
After lunch, I tried to catch up on some social media conversations. I sat outside in the sun, recharged my phone (which I used excessively b/c of the poor internet), talked with some other reserves and rested. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon session observing the Faith & Order sub-committee which was discussing qualifications for ordination. One of the most interesting parts of their work was watching the difficult work of the translator and the difficulty of not only multiple languages, but the added language of Robert’s Rules to complicate matters. It was an exercise in patience for all involved and they truly lived out the process graciously and beautifully… in spite of fumbles and human missteps. That happens… keeping the spirit is the hard part and they succeeded.
The hardest part about the process is that you can’t talk. You can’t add information. You can’t help to clear up problems. You can just be there. I tried to be available by offering to move chairs, by shushing folks next door who were being too loud, offering markers, etc. As a reserve you really are support. You can love and care and pray, but you can’t really participate in the same way. For anyone who knows me, that is a difficult thing for me to do. I like to be actively engaged and twitter has been one way for me to communicate and share even though I cannot use my physical voice.
Tonight’s plenary greeted our Pan-Methodist brothers and sisters from across the globe and featured nominations for important general church positions. It also featured a point of personal priveledge that lifted up the failure of the process of holy conferencing (not enough time, guidelines, compassion, importance) the day before – specifically in regards to LGBT issues. It was evident there was pain and hurt felt by many…
but the beautiful thing about a church conference is that God is in our midst. Our theme for the day was healing and plenary led into worship where we sang Balm in Gilead and talked about the healing power of Jesus’ love in our lives and we were challenged to lift up to God the places where we have hurt or been unkind or have sinned… the places we need spiritual healing as well as physical healing. It was powerful. Tears freely poured. I prayed with one of the marshals for her sister who is ill. We sang, we prayed, and God moved in that place.
10:00 – time to head back to the hotel… with stops for conversation, and witness, and sharing. It’s nearly 1am now… the blogging is done, the mind is clear, and I can sleep.