Monday, May 5, 2008

Wrap Up Still to Come

Hi there! I was pleased at how many of you said that you had been following General Conference this time and that you had been reading my blog! I promise you that I have many more notes and will be putting up at least two or three more entries to wrap up the GC08 coverage.

After that, I will probably be continuing this blog for my observations of the Jurisdictional Conference (in July) and our Annual Conference (in June). I think the way our connection functions is something that is a mystery to a lot of people, and I just want to get information out there!


Friday, May 2, 2008

In the Cups...Out of the Cups

I was reminded of something tonight that originally caught my ear last Thursday on our opening day of addresses. But that was such a full day of soundbites that I didn't remember it until this morning when they played it again.

Bishop Mary Ann Swenson was talking about cups. The primary purpose of a cup when it's empy is to be filled. The primary purpose of a cup when it's filled is to be emptied. We are the cups, she told us.

She was speaking about the generosity in which we need to live our lives. For the time being of the General Conference, that generosity has been shown primarily through our Nothing But Nets challenge that was brought to us by the Kansas East delegation. They bid $420 for a basketball that one of the bishops brought out in explaining the Nothing But Nets program. They challenged the delegations from the other Final Four team areas to do better. After receiving so many bids, each one topping the other, the bishops last night went out and bought basketballs, saying that any delegation that wanted to bid at least $1000 would get to take home a basketball signed by the bishops.

Winning bid for the original Bishop's Ball came from West Ohio (hi Becky!). It was $80,000.

Along the way, Bill Gates' father, William Gates, Sr., told the General Conference that he would match the winning bid. With everything counted, the final total was over $420,000 for the Nothing But Nets Campaign.

We have a lot in our cups. I'm not sure what it means about us that it took that kind of competition to get it out of them, but I'm sure glad we were emptied in that way.


Thursday, May 1, 2008


Maybe it's just me being a young person. Maybe it's that I have started to develop a low tolerance for wasting time. Maybe I just see too many things that actually are good for the body as wasting time.

But this morning and afternoon were interminable. We are still working on 22 Constitutional Amendments that have to do with how we will be a global church.

But I understand--part of what happens at conference is that people come in unprepared to deal with major changes because they have not been adequately explained and explored by the people who need to make decisions.

I need to remember that when I think something is good for a congregation--I need to adequately explain everything so that all might make informed decisions and feel good about what we're doing.

The things that frustrate me about this conference (speeches in the form of parlimentary questions, not being able to speak, long days) are things I need to remember that I am perfectly capable of and perfectly guilty of perpetrating at the local church level.

And I'm sure that someone who is reading this blog will remind me of the lessons! I'm glad for that!

But in the midst of everything, I'm still enjoying getting to know people better, to interact with people from around the United States, etc. I had a wonderful conversation today with the people who are here with the Advance Specials. They have a display in the exhibit hall, and asked me if I knew about the Advance. When I told them that we had actually put it on our wedding registry, they asked if they could do a story on Clayton and me!

It made me feel good because they said they want to inspire other people to do creative things to support their church. I feel sometimes like I have too many ideas and that I'm never going to be able to get any of them done. Or that people say "You'll never get that done, but good luck trying." I feel like when I hear something about the ideas of me and my fellow young clergy actually having a potential impact on the greater church...that I might not be so naive after all that I really can make a difference in our church and in the world.


Being in Committee

This is the blog post I promised a couple of days ago! That's one of the things about this General Conference--we have so little time to get so much done, and we are all averaging 4 hours of sleep a night!

There have been many painful discussions at this General Conference. In the subcommittee I observed, I watched one of those painful discussions. Here are some of the things I wrote when I was watching (my commentary from later is in parentheses).

I wish we prayed more in the committees and subcommittees. (I understand from some of the other delegates that there was a good deal more praying than I observed in my committee in some of the other committees...)

I like the fact that each sub-committee has to come up with a rationale for its decision. This seems to be the most difficult of the work of the Conference. (After making a decision about every petition, the committee or sub-committee has to come up with a written rationale--which means there's got to be reasoning and some kind of basis for each decision. I like that because many people take time to write petitions and they each deserve measured consideration. It would be easy, as I've said, to dismiss many of them, but we can't dismiss anyone--an important point for United Methodists.)

There is a degree of pain sharing here that is deeply vulnerable. What healing could come out of sharing our pain openly instead of yelling at each other or fighting? Can people truly listen to the pain of others here without agenda?

What stories are behind this discussion? I see many stories flashing across their faces.

If the theme of the General Conference is A Future With Hope, what hope are we trying to embody in making these decisions? Where is the "hope language" in the rationale?

There are many people conflicted by all that they read in scripture. Do we read in a vacuum? Do we read with a specific lens in mind? How do we discuss issues with people who read through a different lens? Are some lenses "better" than others?

I hear people struggling with the different stories in their own lives. They can't quite reconcile those stories with what they are hearing and what they believe. How could the church respond and help people try to work through integrating all the stories of their lives with the story of scripture?

This really is a wacky group for God to call together. If I trust that the Holy Spirit worked in the elected process, quite frankly, what was God thinking? (I have this thought a lot when I look at the church--God this week is a strange comedian.)

Now we return to current commentary:
Have you ever been in a study group with people who thought differently from you, either because they came out of a different worldview or a different background? How did you react when your views were challenged? What did you think about when you were challenging someone else's views?

We are doing work that will affect people's lives. We need much prayer.