The first day of General Conference was a wild and fun ride for me (watch here).
I’m an extrovert (obligatory pause while everyone who has ever met me offers a snide comment) and a church nerd (ditto), so I think I’m made to love certain aspects of General Conference. It’s wonderful to see so many friends– people I’ve met before and people I’ve only known “virtually” until now. Thanks to everyone who recognized me in my hot pink sunglasses and came up to say hi! You made my day.
I spent lunchtime in the Common Witness Coalition tabernacle, where I could live for all 10 days. Love it. More importantly, it is the place to feel beloved. Thank you for this deep blessing, Coalition.
As a pastor, it is rare that I get to really sit and absorb worship. Well, sit is the wrong word. I like to stand and jump around and dance during worship. Yes, even in 2″ heels. And Cry. I don’t like to cry, but when it’s a really good worship service I do. My borrowed hankie is getting lots of use, and fortunately, I’m in good company.
Opening worship was amazing. Our worship leader, Marcia McFee, gifted us with powerful words, images, and music, woven together into a multi-lingual, multi-cultural, multisensory worship experience. Singing and praying and breaking bread with 4700 people from all over the world is an experience like no other. The colors alone are stunning– the richness of fabrics and visuals; the sounds are humbling– languages I recognize and ones I don’t; the taste of bread and juice is ever and always God’s grace.
I thought to myself during worship “How can it go wrong from here?”
I knew that we wouldn’t stay at the high of the worship service– it’s not possible to stay there all day, let alone for ten days. And first up were the rules.
Now, rules are important. I know I often talk like I want to burn down the house of structure and regulation, but rules form how we operate so that we can operate. The question is whether or not our rules free us for action or constrict and restrict us. One positive outcome was the passage (by a decisive 82% vote) of rules 26 and 27, which change the way we will handle substitute petitions and minority reports, focusing our time on the one motion that we will vote upon. This closes a sort of legislative loophole that resulted in the failure without debate of the majority report from the Church and Society B committee on human sexuality four years ago.
However, there was an ugly undercurrent to the discussion of the rules.
In no less than three places, delegates raised proposed amendments to prohibit recessing or adjourning the conference session to allow for demonstrations or actions of conscience. In a clear response to last General Conference’s prophetic demonstration by SoulForce– an act that was not broadcast on the livestream, much to my disappointment as I watched from afar– members of the church are seeking to prohibit the expression of distension, as if the fear of being ruled out of order, removed from the premises, or even imprisoned can stop those who seek justice and inclusion (hasn’t before!). As I tweeted last night, we may as well amend the rules to state that those not engaged in changing money be barred from the temple court, lest they overturn tables.
I sincerely hope that these proposed amendments fail and fail spectacularly.
Whether they fail or not, however, I know that the powerful and faithful witness of all working for full inclusion will continue and will one day prevail. Look at how scared people are of voices of dissent! What a powerful witness our sisters and brothers made four years ago that the very thought causes people to tremble today! Persist, church!