Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Well, I'm home from General Conference, and quite bummed about that fact. What in the world ever made me think I'd be okay with leaving in the middle and missing the end? As I told someone yesterday, to me, it's like going to a play and leaving at intermission, missing the second act. I want to know what's happening! was money, and attempting to be responsible, financially, to myself and those who have supported my trip there. As it turns out, I had pleanty of money and support to go, and by staying with Mark (therefore, not having to pay for a hotel room), I have lots of money left over!

Mark's company asked him to stay 2 more days, so he's coming home Thursday. I looked into changing my flight to stay, but it would have cost $200 to change it - about what I payed for the ticket in the first place! And I couldn't bring myself to pay that. I'll be donating the rest of the money given to me to UMCOR, probably Nothing But Nets.

So, I'm home. And now I get to follow the rest of General Conference like the rest of you, through the website and streaming sessions online. Good thing I met several bloggers there, and can now follow their blogs to keep updated!

Even though I'm home, and GC, for me at least, is over this year, I hope you will continue to check in here often to see what other updates I send out about my life. It's kind of boring, but my brain sure thinks about a lot of stuff!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sweet, Sweet Spirit

This blog exemplifies to me one aspect of the spirit I feel here at General Conference. It also shows one example of the difficult decisions that are being made here. I encourage you to read it, then return here for my notes.

Yes, there are politics. Yes, there is arguing. Yes, there are still those so caught up in themselves that they can't see the other person, only the opposition. Yes, there are those manipulating the system, as I've even talked about here. But there is an overwhelming sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know it is the spirit of the Lord.

What I have witnessed is a focus on Holy Conferencing. People are listening to one another. People are open, people are searching, and people are leaving their own plans at home and coming to this with a spirit of love.

I heard about a delegate yesterday who said something like, I came with one vote in mind, thinking I had made up my mind on a situation. But when I heard the speeches of others in the room, I realized a new point of view and changed my vote.

My God, we're finally getting it! (Okay, maybe some have had it). If we could make up our minds before coming, and continued to think the way we had when we arrived, then we could hold General Conference by mail.

People are making the tough decisions, as the blog I linked to shows. And we're listening to one another.

In Ministry and Higher Ed yesterday, they voted on a petition regarding clergy's ability to officiate a same-sex union. The vote was very close, like 34-47 against, or something like that. But the discussion was honorable. People spoke strongly for, and strongly against, but there was no mud-throwing or disrespect to anyone in the room. Though the vote didn't go the way I wanted it to go, I was proud of the people in the room who honored one another. After the vote, the chair even pointed out how well the conversation went, and how she was thankful for the honoring of the humanity represented in the room.

We've only just begun. Today is really the first day that legislation will come to the floor of the entire body from the committees. I hope that this body will continue to have a spirit of holiness and faith as they move through the rest of this week, dealing with the tougher issues and working on less and less sleep.

Thank you to all who are praying for the General Conference delegates. I feel so immensely blessed to just be able to witness this. It is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

10.5 Hours of Sleep

So, I got 10.5 hours of sleep last night! It was blissful! Mark had to work late, and we decided to sleep in and come in for the afternoon sessions. There was worship and plenary this morning, and not much to pass except for consent calendar items, so I don't think we missed much.

Some committees are done with their work - sub-committees have reported and the committees have worked through all of their legislation. Then there are others...Higher Ed, Church and Society, to name a few. They still have a LONG way to go, and they're supposed to be finished today, and they're not supposed to work tonight after about 4:30 because there's a huge dinner being hosted for all the delegates with a presentation, or something about Texas. Not really sure what it is, I'm not going (tickets for non-delegates are $25!), but it's a pretty big deal. I don't know if committees will press on and skip the dinner, or try to work in committee time outside the schedule.

Interesting Committee Observations

I sat in on the sub-committee for Church and Society 2 last night (Saturday), the one dealing with issues of humanity - cloning, embryonic stem cell research, etc.

I don't have much to say on the actual issues. But it was interesting to observe the process they were using.

The other committees I've looked in on have been pretty relaxed, holding discussion and working toward consensus in holy conferencing. The chairs have been guiding and inclusive, reiterating as necessary, even drawing up documents to pull together the conversation, making sure everyone is on the same page.

The committee last night was a little different. They began every petition by having someone vote to adopt or reject the proposed legislation, and several times got bogged down in the semantics of Robert's Rules, because they tried to have open dialogue in the context of Robert's rules, and it wasn't really working that well.

This afternoon (Sunday), I went into Global Ministries. I thought that the standing rules had been changed so that the committees will vote on the actual petitions, and the same in the plenary, as opposed to voting concurrence or non-concurrence with the committee. But GM was voting concurrence/non-concurrence with the sub-committee. They were also not having people vote yea, they only asked for votes of no or not-voting. It made things go fast, because the pages didn't have to count all of the yes votes, they just subtracted the numbers of no's or not voting's.

I'm for doing what works. But I'm afraid, especially with the concurrence/non-concurrence voting, that things may get confusing when they return to the plenary.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Free Cell Phones - The Price?

Interesting things are going on in our church.

If you're familiar with UMAction, you're probably familiar with the IRD. The IRD is the Institute on Religion and Democracy. They have been prominent in influencing General Conference by sending out materials and taking positions on generally conservative issues. They want to return the church to a more conservative mindset, focused on the sole authority of the Bible.

I get stuff in the mail from them all of the time. I do actually read it, just to know what they're saying. But I am always stressed out by it, and I become very frustrated at what is being sent out in the name of my church, because I do not agree with their exclusive mindset.

Well, word has gotten out at GC that the IRD has given free cell phones to the Central Conference delegates, along with printed information of who the IRD would like to see as members of the Judicial Council.

I'm sorry, but that sounds like bribery to me. Call it what you want, but if it looks like a duck and quacks (or rings...) like a duck, then it's probably a duck.

There was an article in the DCA that called the IRD on this. It was balanced - it had interviews from Central conference delegates who did not feel that they had been influenced in their vote, and others who did not accept the phones because they did not want their vote to be bought.

This morning in the session, someone made a motion that the 2012 GC Commission would study and present information regarding, basically, an Ethics Committee for the General Conference, a body to review issues like this, as there currently is nothing of the sort.

I think there is going to be some serious backlash to the IRD as a result of this. When the person made the motion and the bishop asked for a second, there was an overwhelming response. I will be interested to see where this goes.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Committee Hopping

I'm committee hopping this evening.

Mark asked me to sit in on Discipleship to see what's going on with the hymnal. The sub-committee has passed the resolution that deals with creating a hymnal to be submitted for approval at the 2012 GC. (remember, it still has to pass through the whole committee, and then through the whole conference, but it's on its way!) There was a good consensus from the group on this. They had obviously been talking about it, and the chair had created a document to kind of bring together the thoughts regarding a new hymnal. There will be one for the church, and they acknowledge that it will be primarily used in the US, but that it can be "a prologue to additional future work for other regions of the world-wide United Methodist Church."

After than I mozeyed my way over to the sub-committee dealing with human sexuality. They were working on a petition to adopt language about homosexuality that says we are conflicted, and have yet to receive movement from the holy spirit as to where we should stand on this issue, but in the conflict, we as a church urge the UMC and other churches to not pass judgement on anyone because of their sexuality.

I'm afraid it won't pass the entire body because of that last part...though I have to say, didn't God say something about do not judge, lest you be judged?

After that, I traveled on and sat in on Higher Ed talking about deacons' sacramental rights. Pretty good discussion. I kind of came in in the middle, so I'm not clear what they were specifically talking about, but basically I think they were discussing granting deacons the ability to proceed over the sacraments under the oversight of the bishop, and mainly focused in areas outside the local church, in an effort to bring the sacraments to places they would not have previously gone. Some of the response to that was that we have enough issue helping the lay of our congregations understand why the liscensed local pastor with (often but not always) limited education and training has sacramental rights, and the deacon with an M.Div. doesn't. Point being, it would further confuse people if only some deacons have sacramental rights (those serving "in the world" and others don't (those serving in a local congregation).

The issue with granting blanket ability to the sacraments to deacons is the understanding of the order of deacon as we now know it - that deacons are ordained to service and word, not sacraments.

This is an issue I have thought some about, but still don't really know where I stand. On the one hand, I can see how a distinction between the order of deacon and order of elder can and is a good thing. But at the same time, I really don't think it's right that liscensed local pastors have sacramental rights while deacons don't. I think the sub-committee decided to send that to a sub-sub-committee for more discussion on the wording they want to present. It'll be interesting to see where it comes out. I think it will be granted within the oversight of the bishop, ds, or elder.

Alright, I'm headed home for the evening, I hope! I'll be back on tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

Local Church - Membership

I'm getting to see how a sub-committee works this afternoon. I started out sitting in Church and Society 2 (deals with all of the homosexual petitions), but decided that I wasn't quite ready to deal with that issue, so I decided to come over to local church.

Well, evidently God thought I was ready. I sat in on the Local Church sub-committee that's dealing with membership...i.e. pastoral authority over membership...i.e. can a pastor decide to not accept someone into membership because they are a professing, practicing homosexual. Great.

Here are some of my notes:

The conversation is interesting. There are about 15 people in this sub-committee (only 5 women, and several clergy). They have pretty much affirmed the membership vows found in paragraph 217. So now they're talking about pastoral authority. There is one person in particular, a pastor, who is expressing a strong concern for unbridled authority. He sees this going further than sexual orientation, and fears a church where pastors can hand-select the type of people who are a part of the church.

There are really three options here. (If anyone has another, please share!) Pastors have no say - anyone who takes the vows can join the church. Pastors have total authority to prevent anyone they (the pastor) think is not prepared to take the vows from becoming a member. The pastor has the opportunity to counsel someone for membership and recommend to that person that he or she is not prepared to take the membership vows, but if the person decides to continue, the pastor cannot prevent that from happening.

One person is saying that, though he's not sure how it needs to be worded, pastors should have the authority to prevent membership, but should be held responsible for that authority by the others in the community.

Wow...what an ideal situation. Isn't that how all of our churches are supposed to work? Members and pastors are mutually responsible to one another, called to be in covenant relationship, holding each other accountable. I pray for the day that such a church exists. I've currently found the closest thing to it, and am aware of other congregations where this works well. However, I have experienced pastors who take that authority to the next step and do not allow the members of the congregation, or even other staff members, to hold them accountable. They take an authoritarian stance of power of their congregations, and God save anyone who gets in their way.

The conversation I had with Mark this afternoon surrounded the issue of sin. Even if you see homosexuality as a sin (which I don't), we let professing sinners in the door every day who have no plans to quit - alcoholics, glutons, liars, heck, Jesus said it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven, but I don't see any pastors preventing the well-off of our culture from joining. We more often rejoice when a rich man joins the church, 'cause we're hoping he tithes.

We can't take the part of the gospel we like and leave the rest. I pray to God I'm not doing that - someone call me on it if I am. The basis of the gospel is the three-fold "rules" that they've been talking about all week. Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God. We have to admit that we are broken people, we have to admit that the creations of humans, including the rules of our church, are broken institutions. We cannot shut out those longing for community simply because they disagree with us. God's church is GOD's church, God's table is GOD's table. Call me inclusive, call me lovey-dovey, but the doors of the church and membership in that body should be open to all!

Some of the other issues outside of homosexuality related to that are what about molestors/rapists? What about thiefs? What about the people who seek to harm others, or have harmed others in the past...are we not allowed to "protect" ourselves from them? Certainly! Just at there is a justice system in our government to protect the people (flawed as it may be), we must protect ourselves from those who have weaknesses in certain areas. Child molestors should not be allowed to work with children. Embezelers should not be allowed to work with finance. But they should not be barred from the church. God's house is a place where we can come and confess our weaknesses, share in community, and be given the support and guidance we need to repent and turn away from the sin. If we're going to shut out one group of "sinners" then we need to shut them all out, and, as a result, close the doors of our church for good, because no one would be left.


I am intrigued by the bi-polar nature of this body as a whole. We spoke all day yesterday of unity and dialogue, and putting aside our agendas in an effort to truly listen to one another. And I already have heard word of committees being "stacked" and steamrolling the elections of the chair, vice, and secretary. I think it is interesting how we can hold one another's hands in one room and pretty much suffer short-term memory loss of that unity the minute we step into our committees and return to our own agendas.

Off to lunch. More later.

Independent Commissions

I'm sitting in on the Independent Commissions LC this morning. They haven't broken into sub-committees yet, and are dealing as a whole with a petition and resolution regarding the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The petition states that the ELCA and the UMC would establish a joint committee to discuss how the two churches would work together. The resolution talks about the communion between the two, that we would basically work together in our Christian work, acknowledging the sacraments and ordination of the other.

My question what if the ELCA recognizes homosexual ordination? (I kinda doubt it, just because of the name, Evangelical, I assume they take the more conservative position). But, if the ELCA chose to accept the ordination of homosexuals, as a result of this resolution, we would be forced to regognize the validity of that ordination.

Pretty cool. Again, doubting it will be an issue, certainly not this year, but still, pretty cool.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The beginning of the Legislative Committees

My computer battery is dying because I sucked it up downloading the pdf version of the ADCAs this morning. (Quite ironic that I downloaded them so I wouldn't have to carry the ADCAs, and downloading it has made accessing it impossible!) But, before it kicks the bucket for the evening, I wanted to give a quick update. We're divided into legislative committees. I'm hanging out in Conferences, which is going to deal with a lot of the issues about Jurisdiction/Central Conferences and representation to General Conference. A lot of the issues about ordination that had originally been assigned here have been referred to Higher Ed and Ministry (actually Ministry and Higher Ed...why they switch the name for the committee from what the GA is called is beyond me!)

The first thing the LC does is elect a chair, vice chair, and secretary. For the Conferences, the Chair is a Young Adult and the Secretary is a youth, one of the youth from the young person's address this morning. I think that's kind of interesting...again, in my effort to recognize inequality, even when it's in favor of my particular "agenda" if I can say that. Of the three, all are lay, two are young people and Caucasian (the third is African American, female) One of the people who ran for secretary was an ordained person of Asian background, and I think having her elected would have rounded out the diversity in regards to age, clergy/lay, ethnicity, and gender. Though, I must say, as we've begun, they young adult chair and youth secretary are doing a very good job. I'm impressed!

My plan is to rotate among the legislative committees for my time here. There are, according to the agenda, 11 legislative committee sessions, so I hope to make it to 11 of the 13 LCs.

Alright, the count down to D-Day for my precious Mac is 0:15. So, I believe I will allow her to sleep for the evening and I'll be back on tomorrow!

Numbers 2

Alright, let's continue this conversation.

What makes me a connectional person? Interaction is so integral to my life. Why is that? Where does that come from? Is it a generational thing? It intrigues me, generational theories and characteristics.

The young people did AMAZINGLY! There were six of them, they spoke around the arena. They talked about their various experiences as individuals - one from Russia where Protestant religion is frowned upon, to the point that Protestant youth and young adults often lie to their parents about going to youth. One from Nebraska who discussed the right/left dichotomy of our church and county (and world) and how he chose a third path of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. A young adult clergy person who talked about the 20/30 ministry she's begun in her congregation. A young African American youth who spoke of the ministry that's needed to the poor, disenfranchised, sick, and left out.

Simplicity. Action. Faith with works. Their call was to the now. Yes, you call us the church of the future, but if we keep talking about the future and what the future will do, and don't focus on the now, there will be no future. We are ready, was the call. Are you?

I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little sick of numbers. So far, if I'm not mistaken, every speaker has mentioned the fact that the UMC is losing members. By this percentage, at this rate, this many in this number of years.

I understand we need people. We need numbers. We need to constantly be growing, stretching, reaching new people, or else we seriously do become irrelevant and ineffective in the simple fact that we don't exist. But it's the same thing as money. If money is our focus, then our ministry is off the mark, in my opinion. If numbers is our focus, then our ministry is off the mark. The problem isn't that we need to bring in new people, it's that we need to transform the ones who are already here, so that others will be drawn to us, because in us they see the face of God. It reminds me of that insurance commercial where the two people are touring the Hoover Dam, and there's a leak. Instead of finding out the root of the problem, the woman just takes out her gum and plugs the hole.

When someone joins my local church, their picture is taken and hung on the board to show the new members. There's a story told that one day, someone joined the church, and after the service asked, "what now?" and the response was "well, you get your picture taken and that's it." Humorous little story, but holy cow, what a message. That's not it. That's only the beginning. As our pastor says, come as you are, but don't expect to stay as you are.

My fear is as we focus on numbers, we return to or enforce the "you have your picture taken and that's it" mindset. Numbers, numbers, numbers. We just want names on our list. Never mind if they come back to anything, or have a transforming experience with Christ, we've got their name, and it's there for at least 5 years!

Even now, as I'm half listening to the Laity address, that's what I'm picking up - we need to invive people to come to church, we can't count on the pastors to grow the membership, we as laity have to be the ones to bring people into the church. What about what we do with them once they're there?

Her three points:
1. Invite, Invite, Invite
2. Carry the name of Jesus with you in missions
3. Claim one personal ministry.
Okay, I'm with the last one. Well, I'm with them all. Collectively. Like the Fruit of the Spirit - you have to take all of them, you can't pick and choose.

I fear this is our direction in our conference with this new vision of reaching out to the unchurched. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm all about reaching out. But what about the ones who are here? I'm all about the future, but what about the now? The language we still use when talking about youth and young adults is that we're the future. No! We're the present, as much as the 72 year old delegate is the present. We're so concerned with who's not here, that I'm afraid we forget about the ones who are.

I'm guilty of this too. I have to acknowledge that. I get so concerned with the young person's vote, I forget that there is a large contingency of young people who are here, speaking, moving, transforming.

And so the call is to the present. We are here. Now, in the present. What are we doing with this present time?


Let me start by saying I'm very impressed with our female bishops - many of them have spoken over the past 2 sessions.

The one speaking right now, presenting the budget, has presented the paradigm of a river. We are standing on the shore of a river. Are we to look back at our past glory, remember the majesty, and dwindle here until we become irrelevant, or will we forge the river and enter into a future of hope?

I'm appreciative of her points. She's spouted off the same statistics that we've been hearing - UM membership is declining in US and Europe, growing in Africa and Asia, young clergy are scarce, we always are in need of more money.

Her point is that God is a God of abundance, and we can no longer look at our ministry with a mindset of "If we just had [this], we could do [this]!" We need to focus on what we have, and move beyond the myth of scarcity.

I sense this movement of simplicity, growing as a (generational-wide?) movement larger than the parts I have experienced. Buy Nothing Day, grassroots political movements, greater focus on "going green" and simplifying our lives by reducing the noise that surrounds us. It's coming together. More later...young people's address is beginning!


I do have to comment on the amazing staging of this event. The backdrop is a really inventive set of white sheet-type material that's stretched out into various shapes with 4-6 points. White sounds boring, but the amazing thing is they are using lights to change the colors, so the backdrop is always new. It really helps the eyes, and will continue to as we work this week, not having to stare at the same thing every day! I'm very impressed. If I figure out how to upload pictures into this blog, I'll post some.


Just a side note. I know that we're not going to find a convention center with a full pipe organ installed, but this electric organ just isn't cutting it for me!

In the Name of God

Yea! Internet in the arena!

The Bishop's address is going on, I think. I missed the beginning because of posting my previous posts (didn't know internet was accessible in the arena).

The bishop (Sharon Christopher) who led communion this morning did a really good job, I thought. Throughout the communion liturgy, she interspersed information about what's going on in the world around us. She spoke directly to the conflict we often face and encourage at General Conference, about how we treat other baptized Christians as "the other" simply because we don't see eye to eye. She reminded us that John Wesley called us to love one another, and be in communion with one another. If you love and serve God, you are my neighbor, my friend, and we are working together.

This is such a challenge for me, I am realizing. I always think of myself as an inclusive person, but I certainly have my own agenda. I have a passion for young people - who do I disenfranchise in my work to further the voice and presence of young people?

Thursday Morning

Hello, friends!

I found Internet Access! It wasn't as readily available in our room as I thought, so I ust saved my previous blog and posted it this morning. So, once again, ignore the time stamp - I wrote it last night.

I hope to be posting throughout the day, so check back!

Soaking It All In

Soaking It All In

Day One and I’m already pooped!

Our flight was know, I get more stressed out about getting to the flight than the actual flight itself. I know some people have a fear of flying. The flying’s the easy part for me. It’s the security, being on time, and praying they don’t lose my luggage that stresses me out! But, everything worked out well, and if I start going into details from 8am this morning, we’ll be here all night, and as it’s 12:30am (Wednesday morning, actually), that should give you some indication that this will be long enough!

Flight, good. Hotel, well....our room’s wonderful, now that we’re actually here. They’re doing construction on the hotel. I’m beginning to think Texas does construction on their buildings like Tennessee does construction on their roads—constantly. The lobby is a mess, and the second floor where Mark’s office is set up is pretty much a mess, too. But the room is nice. It’s a Sheraton, it better be nice! (And even nicer that I don’t have to pay for it! Yea Mark traveling for work!)

It did take us, well, until about an hour ago to actually get into our room. We arrived at the hotel right about noon, maybe 11:30, and the room wasn’t ready yet. We bummed around for about 2 hours, Mark worked on setting up the office, I read some pamphlets that were supposed to tell us where we were and where we could get food (they didn’t), and by about 1:30, the room still wasn’t ready, so we left our luggage behind the counter and headed to the Convention Center.

First order of business, after acquiring food, of course, was to head to the Young Person’s Orientation. This was good - saw several people I was hoping to see here! Also ran into several of Mark’s co-workers, so he got to catch up with them. All good. The orientation was pretty standard, here’s how committees work, things move fast, make your voice be heard, etc. They did introduce the 6 young people who will be giving the first ever Young Person’s Address to General Conference (tomorrow morning (actually, today...ugh) - 11:35am - you can stream it at and you can also check out the blog of one of the speakers at At the YP orientation they also got people together who were on the same legislative committees so they could talk and know a friendly face when they actually get into the committees tomorrow.

We met a couple of friends for dinner and talked about the recent ongoings in the TN Conference. Then back to the Convention Center for opening worship and the first session.

Worship was really good. I had a hard time deciding whether I really wanted to be behind the scenes creating and supporting the beauty, or if I wanted to be out there leading it. Still haven’t made up my mind, but I do know I don’t want to be in section 308! I definitely need to be more involved. I’m sure that comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me.
After worship, they did a session, which was the first time they’ve evidently done a session after opening worship - they usually wait until the next day. All in effort to get everyone out of here sooner and shorten our time here. It certainly made for a long meeting tonight!

On the agenda was setting of the bar, adopting the rules, report of the General Conference Committee and a couple of other things. It was interesting to see the work of the body begin. Some issues have already come up, though we’ll have to see how they pan out in the committees before we really know anything. Some that came up:

20 Under 30: requiring that GC and the General Board and Agencies have 20% of their representation under the age of 30.
Removal of petition: question was raised as to whether or not someone can withdraw a petition after submitting it but before General Conference (came up because GB of Church and Society withdrew its petition about divesting from Caterpillar)
Reducing GC to 500-600 delegates, as opposed to 900-100
Constitutionality of petitions - this came up, someone referred the petitions regarding 20 under 30 and other minority representation on boards and agencies to the Judicial Council to review their constitutionality

After we set the rules (amazing work...they adopted all 40 rules in one fell swoop!) they did some presentations, the main one on “Sensitivity Training.” I have to say, it was pretty good. They used clips from The Office - hilarious! They took the ones from the inclusiveness training that they did, where the guy talks about being a “HERO”, and Dwight goes on about how to be a hero you actually need to have a super power and have had something tragic happen to you in childhood that needs to be avenged (opened with that one). They took the one where Michael tells Pam she needs to be the cheerleader for their basketball game (used that to talk about women and equality), and they used another clip for inclusiveness in race. It was good...they didn’t talk about age inclusiveness, which was interesting. Though, let me plug in here that the young people were on their toes tonight - they caught several things that needed to be corrected and made some good points. Also voted emphatically for only audible cell phone use to be banned from the floor (texting is in! not that I have it...) The information they shared about inclusiveness of non-English speaking people was very good, though. They were real about it, honest, even in the filmed presentation they had prepared.

Alright, seeing at it’s now 1:00am, and our bus leaves at 7:15 am, I’m going to bed! They young person’s lounge has free internet, I believe, so hopefully I can give updates throughout the day tomorrow instead of waiting until evening. I also am at least planning on taking out my computer and taking notes during the sessions, because there are so many things I wanted to talk about that my tired brain has simply forgotten about. Each day, I’ll just get better and better at this! If you’re reading this, thanks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

General Conference

I'm headed to Fort Worth, TX tomorrow morning for General Conference! I'm pretty excited. It'll be an interesting event, as always. I haven't read many of the petitions coming forth, but there are some major issues. Of course, the staple, homosexuality. But they're also dealing with our relationship to Caterpillar and basically the structure of the UMC. There are evidently several petitions to change jurisdictional lines in the US, to do away with one General Conference and have each country act as its own General Conference, and various other things.

I attended GC four years ago for about 3 days, just as an observer. I'm going probably as an observer again, but as second reserve, I may actually get to sit in on something, depending on how everything works out. I'll be there for a week this time, so hopefully I'll get to see a lot!

I'm planning to get there in time to go to the "Women Delegates' Briefing" and the "Young Adult Delegates' Briefing" tomorrow. I'm interested to see what they say at these, especially the Women's one (mainly b/c there isn't a "Men Delegate's Briefing").

You have to pay for internet at the Convention Center, so I'm probably not going to have access to that. But, I think I'll have access at the hotel at night, so I'll post my thoughts from the day each evening (though, probably very late, because I don't think I'll be getting back to the hotel until after 11pm).

Thank you all who have supported me going! It'll be an adventure!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

I've Got Something Better

I saw my second Nooma video Wednesday night. It was called Kickball. It's about not getting what you want. If you're familiar with the series, it's by Rob Bell, and he talks about something each of us face in our lives, and relates it to a personal story or something, and then connects it to our relationship with God. Before we watched the video, the leader asked us to imagine something that we really want, that we've asked for, but haven't yet gotten. Of course, the first thing that comes to my mind is a new job.

I have a great job. It pays well, has great benefits, is extremely flexible, and will look great on a resume. But it's not what I'm supposed to do for the rest of my life. I'm not meant to spend my days behind a computer screen in a brown cubicle. But I just can't figure out what it is that I'm supposed to be doing. But, we don't need to get into that now. Suffice it to say, when I'm asked about what it is that I really want, but haven't gotten yet, the first thing that comes to mind is a new job. THE job, the one that challenges me just right, allows me to use all of my God-given gifts, and that invigorates me, instead of leaving me exhausted.

In Kickball, he tells about how he and his wife took their son to the mall. And as they walked down the mall, they came to a kiosk that was selling all these toys. And his son saw a toy that he wanted, a ball attached to a string that you attach to your arm and then throw, and it comes back and you catch it (if you can stop it from hitting you in the face). Now, his son's two and a half. And, like all two and a half year olds, he didn't really understand reasoning. Rob talked about how he and his wife had talked about getting their son a kickball, and they were planning to go to the sports store after their trip to the mall to get him one. But, of course, that means nothing to this two and a half year old standing in the mall, begging and crying for the toy that is in his sights.

So he tried to reason with his son, telling him that he doesn't really want this ball, that it'll just get all tangled and won't be any fun to play with, and that they're leaving to get something better.

Rob then talked about how there's always something we want. And we always think we know what we want, what's best for us. But God, God knows what we need, and when we need it. God is (yet again), like the parent who knows there's more, something better waiting just across the street.

After the video, we talked about it, fairly shallowly, because it's just an hour session with drop-in people - no real covenant group formation or anything like that. But to end the session, the leader asked us to close our eyes and imagine ourselves standing at the kiosk, looking at what it is that we want. And she leads us through this guided imgaining process.

So, I imagine myself standing at the kiosk. On the second shelf down is my perfect job. I don't even know what it is, but it's wrapped in one of those plastic packages that's impossible to get into. I reach out and pick it up. I'm holding it in both hands, gazing at its beauty. This job, this true meaning and fulfillment in my life is in my hands. It could be mine.

Then, God places his hand on my shoulder and says, "No. I've got something better."

I've got something better.

Then God puts the job back on the shelf, picks me up, and carries me out of the mall.

Tears are coming to my eyes, and I try to hide them because I don't really want to get into this right now with others. But it hit me again. God's got something better for me. I don't know what it is, but it's better. My waiting is not for naught. Some day, I have to trust, something better will be here.

It's so frustrating, because I'm such an impatient person. I want it now. It's in my hand, for heaven's sake! But I continue to be told and reminded that where I am is where I'm supposed to be.

So here I am. Until it's time for the something better, I'm here. And all I can pray for is that God will continue to give me the strength to do what it is that God wants me to do, which is obviously to stay right where I already am. So here I am.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


I went to the "listening session" Monday night (April 7) with the Bishop and Loyd Mabry. It was...interesting.

Gavin has posted an audio of it at his blog, gavoweb. I'd encourage you to listen to it and see what you think.

I'm having a hard time. I appreciated the bishop's apology. It disturbs me that he's trying so hard to distance himself from the decision that has been made. I guess it's good, because he knows it was handled badly, and he's trying to not have the blame fall on him, but as the bishop, shouldn't it? It's apparent from other conversations that the bishop wasn't getting the whole story.

And then there's Rev. Mabry. He, apparently, doesn't see anything wrong with what happened. He still thinks he did the right thing, in the right way, and isn't willing to apologize, even though several people opened the door for him to do so.

I did speak, though I don't know how helpful it was because I got emotional and cried. My concern is with Rev. Mabry's response - that he doesn't think he did anything wrong. My concern is when something this atrocious happens, and the person at fault isn't willing to admit fault and apologize, then it can and will happen again.

I got involved in the youth ministry of the Tennessee conference when I was in the 7th grade. I've worked on committees; design teams; district, annual, jurisdictional, and general level committees for over 11 years, supporting the youth and young adult ministries of the TN conference. My mother has been the Coordinator for the children's ministries of the TN conference, working and supporting the ministries in that area. And, out of nowhere, the director of Connectional Ministries decides everything we've been doing is wrong. What does that say? It invalidates me, personally. They kept saying this wasn't personal, that we don't need to make this personal. They were saying that we shouldn't make this about the people who were let go, but it is personal - it's about me. It's about the ministries and missions I've devoted my life to for years, and in one fell swoop, they've made me feel like everything I've worked for over the past 11 years is worthless.

And, back to my concern, if those in charge don't see that they've done anything wrong, what if I do get on board with this "new vision." Say I move past this hurt and continue to be involved, and devote the next 11 years to this new outreach idea to at-risk, unchurched children and youth. What's to say that in 11 years, someone else, or even the same people, come along and wipe out everything we've been doing and usher in something new, following some new buzzword, and invalidate us once again.

Something I kept hearing was numbers. Rev. Mabry must have spouted off 10 different statistics, pointing out various "problems" and so forth. The problem is, ministry is a process, a journey, if you will. Ministry can't be about the numbers. It's not quantity, it's quality. We have to be offering quality ministry - relationships, care, grace, truth. Now, I will grant that the minsitries of the TN conference aren't as good as they could be. There's always room for improvement, and I know there are some who don't feel involved or inluded in the creation and development of the programs. But that can be changed without completely erasing everything that's going on and starting over. And that's not what I'm hearing as the reason behind these moves. The reason is that only 5% of people living in Middle Tennessee are members of United Methodist Churches. If we don't have numbers, what we're doing isn't working.

I feel worthless. And I feel helpless, unable to do anything to change the situation.

The petition is still going to be presented at Annual Conference, so hopefully we'll talk about it there. Other than that, I'm at a loss for what to do.

I apologize - you'd think that nine days after the meeting I'd have my thoughts a little more organized. But with being sick (I had an ear infection for 3 days before and five days after the meeting - fun) and trying to get caught up at work, I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about this. And part of me, I think, is still in shock, or devastated, and I just don't want to think about it. I mean, who really wants to dwell on the feeling of worthlessness and spend her free time mulling over conflict? I, personally, just want to go to bed.