Reunited at General Conference

by | May 18, 2016 | General Conference News

Theon Johnson III (at right) and others in support of LGBTQ clergy line the entryway to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference May 18 in Portland, Ore. Many wore or carried clergy stoles of defrocked clergy as well as crosses. The demonstration was carried out in silence. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

By Rev. Dan Hurlbert

I have been reunited with a friend at General Conference 2016 whom I hadn’t seen for years. We had “friended” each other on Facebook and decided to meet up at the Conference as time permitted. We were able to have a couple of conversations in which we got caught up with life events over the last quarter century. He shared that he attended U of A, did a stint with the US Marines, went to seminary in Kentucky, is now a pastor in Texas, and attended the “Good News” briefings.

If you don’t know much about me, or being a United Methodist this probably doesn’t mean much to you. If on the other hand, you know a lot about me and the Church, you understand that I’ve described my polar opposite. I went to ASU, am a pacifist, went to Claremont School of Theology, and am solidly at home in the Western Jurisdiction which schedules its briefings at the same time as the “Good News,” presumably because none of those among us could possibly want to be at both.

We had great conversation. We laughed together and recalled the days of our youth with great fondness.  It would have been pretty easy for us to point out our differences. I don’t believe we were tempted to do that. We did bring up how we lean in opposite directions, then within a few seconds, we were back to catching up and laughing. We had more old stories and friends to talk about, more commonality to share.

I don’t believe either one of us has the desire to see the other leave the denomination. I know I would hate to lose him as a part of my extended family. I hope he feels the same.

What if, instead of looking at our differences we looked at what we have in common? When my friend and I did this, I discovered that while we may lean toward opposing poles we have the same center. The entire denomination has the opportunity to do this. Move forward together, not in spite of our differences, but because of our common center.

Editor’s Note: Similar sentiment was shared by the youth present at the 2016 General Conference and in 2014 when they urged the denomination to find ways to promote global unity.

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Author: DSC Communications

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