It’s been a very interesting 6 weeks. We at Centenary have spent some time exploring the Social Principles found in our guiding document- The Book of Discipline in the United Methodist Church. I chose to focus on this during worship because quite frankly, that’s when the most people are engaging the church. And some people really enjoyed the fact that their church was engaging these real life issues that swirl around us outside the church walls. Some people were surprised that our church actually talks about a wide array of issues both theological in nature and secular. Other people felt like the series could not end soon enough. That worship might not have been the best place to focus on the Social Principles.
I completely respect the wide range of opinions and experiences. But as the United Methodist Church begins its global work together that opened on Tuesday, I hope my church folks are prepared to better understand what they will start hearing in the news and seeing on Facebook. General Conference, something that happens every 4 years, began in Portland, OR with opening worship Tuesday. 864 delegates from the United States, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia will gather to do the business of the church for the next 10 days. And I have no reason to believe differently, but like in years past, this will be challenging, at times faithful and at other times heartbreaking work.
Someone asked me how these delegates are selected. Each Annual and Central Conference elects a certain number of delegates based on the number of United Methodist members in the churches within their Conference. Western North Carolina elected 10 clergy delegates and 10 laity delegates. When I first entered ministry we elected a total of 28 delegates so we have lost 8 delegates in 18 years due to a decrease in membership. There are an equal number of clergy and laity (non-clergy) delegates at the Conference. We elected our delegates last summer at Annual Conference that met at Lake Junaluska. Centenary had 4 clergy and 4 delegates from the church present. We actually supplied a few District delegates as well so our church had a total of 10 voting delegates.
This week the delegates will spend most of their time in legislative session dealing with the over 1000 petitions that have been submitted so they will spend a week considering, consolidating, and deciding which petitions will make it to the floor for action.
I invite my fellow United Methodists to be in prayer for the work that is taking place in Portland. I remind those of us that are going about our regular lives seemingly unaffected by this General Conference that this is the opportunity for our Church to speak into the world a theological voice. And I pray that the Church will model for the world how we talk about sensitive and emotionally charged topics from very different perspectives. What an opportunity we have to show a more excellent way.
And I happen to believe that authentic worship of God includes bringing our whole lives and offering them to God. It also involves finding the intersections in our lives with God in the world we live in. I hope worship can be a place where our life and God intersect. Right now that intersection involves 800 voices from around the world coming together to shape the voice of the United Methodist Church for the next 4 years. And that is something I care very much about.
Feel free to follow along with what happens in Portland using the link below. And may we truly model a more excellent way.
Grace and Peace,