Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Big Tent: Reflections on General Conference

My contribution to an Exhibit about
what is great about my local church!
   I've been in Portland for seven days now. General Conference is still working and news and rumors are happening around me, even now, as I sit and write this during a plenary session. Elected as a reserve delegate, I've been included as a voting delegate at six different sessions, so far. One of the days I've been seated in the legislative committee that is at the epicenter of conversations around sexuality and gender and on another handling petitions about the local church. I've observed the large meeting sessions, sat near the small committee groups as they've worked, had meals with great folks I've not known before, and been inspired by music and some great preaching. What I've experienced in these days prompts these reflections:
  • Everyone here means well, though not everyone agrees on how to interpret the Scriptures. I have witnessed kindness from all sorts of people. This has been a blessing and a reminder of our shared humanity and need for grace.  
  • We are a worldwide church. We all know this, but sitting alongside delegates and guests from every corner of the world drives it home. Going forward presents challenges in working as a global entity, but affords us such advantages in witness and reach.
  • The Central Conference delegates from around the world are sharp. They arrive prepared and engaged. They will continue to rise as leaders of direction and vitality in our connection.
   The Rev. David Watson, a United Methodist professor in Ohio, wrote in an article last month a word of reminder: the United Methodist Church is a 'big tent' denomination. John Wesley made room for people of all sorts of theological bents. Instead of arguing incessantly, he spent his energy laser-focused on raising up leaders and people to grow in grace and act in obedience to God. Even the merger of two denominations that formed the UMC in 1968 allowed for lots of people along a spectrum to gather in one large place. This is one of the very best things of our connection: everyone is welcome and, on our best days, we are intentional to not do harm to those sitting next to us who might think differently. I pray that we are all led by the Holy Spirit to pursue Scriptural Holiness.
   I am so very thankful for my family who has allowed me to travel and to the church and staff who have covered for me; I believe our service here has sought to serve God faithfully.
   Grace and peace, Scott

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