The called General Conference has the potential to be a major turning point for The United Methodist Church. There is so much speculation about what will happen and what won’t happen. And there has been huge amounts of theological and political debate about whether or not LGBTQ persons would be allowed an equal place in the church.
As I read some of the articles, I am shocked at the divisiveness that has been present. We are a family, after all – the body of Christ. How does a family say hateful things to one another and expect anyone to listen, much less respect, what is being said?
Our theme for Annual Conference 2018, a theme that has stayed with us throughout the year, is Giving God our Best. The scriptural foundation is found in Colossians 3:12-15. I wonder what Give God our Best looks like when we are discussing what challenges our faith? The Holy Huddles last fall have helped to shape the way we align our lives with the highest ideals of our faith. During the huddles those present agreed to Covenant together. We were asked to take the Covenant with us as we left the Holy Huddle and to find ways to let it shape our conversations going forward. Let me share that Covenant with you, and as you read the words I ask you to join in holding the Covenant as part of your life.
We gather around the table, acknowledging God’s unbounded grace for all. We come from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, and we acknowledge our differences of opinion and perspectives on many matters.
Yet we gather still, knowing that Jesus calls us to break bread and share the cup no matter what, and that each of us has a place here. And so, as we gather around the table I will:
Stay curious. I come with a willingness to learn and commit to staying at the table. When the going gets rough, I will turn to wonder, ask questions and stay engaged.
I will Be kind. There will be statements shared at the table that will challenge my perspectives. I will be respectful in my responses and engagement, treating each one with grace and love.
I will Listen with the same amount of passion with which I want to be heard. In the words of St. Francis, I will seek to understand more than to be understood. I also commit to share the air and not dominate the conversation.
Here is what I believe:
- People on all sides of the debate have good intentions. It is their current understanding of their faith that is being questioned. Relationship building – the telling and hearing of our stories – holy conversations – Bible study – and prayer are critical components of faith development. Open hearts and open minds are part of the process needed when matters of faith are discussed.
- We are all sisters and brothers in Christ, called to touch lives and transform communities with love and grace. No matter what happens at the special session of General Conference we must fulfill that calling. There are hurting people, hungry people, people going through divorce or medical treatment, people who are getting married, having babies, grieving… (you add to the list) We are called to make the love of Jesus Christ tangible for all people.
I am grateful that in every conversation I have had with people in the East District that there has been respect and grace present. At every point I felt as if people were Giving God their Best.
I invite you to join in Praying our Way Forward as we prepare for the special session of General Conference that is being held on February 23-26, 2019.
- Pray daily for four minutes from 2:23-2:26 (the dates of the conference).
- Commit to the Wesleyan practice of fasting and prayer from dinner on February 22 until dinner on February 23. This is the day of prayer for delegates and observers in St. Louis.
- Connect with the Praying our Way Forward website: https://umcprays.org/
Let us continue to Give God our Best by aligning all we do and say with the highest ideals of faith. Let us hold hands and commit ourselves to being living as people of grace and love.
I am in prayer. Will you join me?