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Confluence of Connections at General Conference

by | Feb 22, 2019 | Not In USe

Members of the Desert Southwest Conference Delegation: Dan Hurlbert, Billie Fidlin, Jim Nibblink, and Anthony Tang are pictured in the top right and left corners. Director of Connectional Ministries, Beth Rambikur in front of the Gateway Arch at the bottom. Memorial to Dred and Harriet Scott in front of the courthouse where they filed suit for their freedom. Confluence of rivers in the heart of America’s watershed.
A reminder that the interpretation of history depends on who is telling the story and what audience is listening, a display at Gateway Arches National Park Museum.

Landmarks are familiar monuments that help us navigate terrain and orient ourselves in the world. Walking to The Dome at America’s Center were the iconic landmarks of St. Louis. The river, the arch, the court house all reminders of history, place holders of geography, and the backdrop to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. In the time leading up to this event I have been particularly aware of the interpretation of history, looking back over General Conference history for the last 200 years most involved the shifting of major landmarks in the topography of Methodism. Every inch of the United Methodist identity has been debated. Boundaries around who has been included and excluded from ministry and membership, from community and communion have been drawn and redrawn since the movement began. Standing on the steps of the courthouse where Dred Scott filed for his humanity to be recognized by his country and knowing that the United States Supreme Court denied him his freedom, is a sobering reminder that truths are not self-evident. We interpret the world. From the colors we see and the words we use to describe one another, to the reading of the documents that give us meaning. The Bible, the Constitution, The Book of Discipline, these are all words that must be interpreted and in that act of interpretation the world takes shape, landmarks are built, the map is drawn. Standing in The Dome at America’s Center as registration for General Conference began, listening to delegates from around the world converge and greet one another with the love of Christ, I cannot imagine the act of interpretation that our denomination is about to embark upon. Taking the hands of old friends and new folks I feel an enormous hope in our common heritage, the inheritance that belongs to us as children of God and followers of Christ. And as a student of history I am reminded that Christians have never agreed about how best to follow Jesus. Even his own disciples struggled to interpret his teachings and there are 2000 years of church history marked by passion, violence, destruction, rebirth and renewal in cycle after cycle. What landmarks will emerge from this time together in St. Louis? What history will be told, and who will interpret it? Here, in America’s heartland, the convergence of the waters of America, is also a convergence of the waters of The United Methodist Church, with the Holy Spirit as our current, God our source, and Christ our living water, who knows what landmarks will be changed and re-formed.

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