Wednesday was a day of highs and lows, which will probably be a theme for General Conference in, um, general.
We began the day with three main addresses, one each from the episcopacy (the Council of Bishops), the laity, and the young people of the church. New England Conference’s Bishop, Pete Weaver, began the day with a rousing and tear-producing call to “Resurrection Revolution,” and reminded us that everything we do must be not about preserving an institution but transforming the world.
The laity address, which was shared between three lay persons, focused on the notion that the work of the church is indeed the work of lay people, and offered a metaphor I particularly liked: the church is like an orchestra or choir, with the pastor as the conductor. The conductor is silent, a guide and leader; it is the orchestra that makes all the music!
The young people’s address made use of technology to bring messages from young United Methodists from around the world, including a co-presenter from the Philippines who was unable to attend in person because she had not been approved for a visa. Illustrating how technology helps us live into our global church, the address lifted up the ways in which young people are charged, rooted, and united for ministry in the world.
After finally finishing up our rules, we met for the first time as legislative committees, and elected our committee leadership. A particular joy for me was that in my committee, Church and Society B, we had nominations in nearly every position of delegates coming from outside the United States. Our committee co-chair is from Liberia. Truly we are living into being a global church!
I snuck away for a time to lead a conversation on the “theology of ‘glee’,” also known as watching the previous night’s episode. We had a good time together, even if we were very segregated by gender. I may or may not have gone on the record calling actor Darren Criss proof of God’s existence.
At the evening plenary session, the lows come to the forefront. I think we heard some other reports, but the main report was from the IOT team presenting the legislative proposals coming out of the Call to Action report.
So many people (but mostly, or most notably Jeremy) have blogged about these proposals at great length and offered great critiques of them. I won’t try to summarize that all just now. But the presentation itself was truly awful. Methodist rockstar pastor Adam Hamilton presented the information. Adam is a master of persuasive speech and visual presentation—he’s a pastor of a large church and he knows how to work a crowd. So it was surprising that the visual metaphors and images that were used alongside the presentation were so striking. In delivering statistics that Rev. Hamilton hoped would wake up the church and drive home the reality and seriousness of the denominational decline in membership, attendance, and new members by baptism and profession of faith *in the United States*, Rev. Hamilton used pictures of empty pews, stark old churches devoid of life. Comparing the general boards and agencies, which I see as providing tremendous diversity and flexibility in our global church, to competing kayakers, the alternate proposal (which many have critiqued for its lack of diversity) to a monolithic crew team in one boat. Hm. The presentation ended with a video of a church closing, and one last tearful member locking the doors for the last time. Twelve hours almost to the minute from the time Bishop Weaver called us to seek the transformation of the world and not the preservation of an institution, a person presenting for the team said, “I want to make sure the United Methodist Church *survives*.”
Missing form the conversation were the voices of young people (although plenty was said claiming to be on our behalf), the voices of women, and most distressingly in my opinion, a sense of connection to a global church that is experiencing growth in many parts of the world.
Twitter exploded, with critique, with feedback, and in places with frustration and anger.
Frustrated and at the end of my rope, feeling that we had tried to scare people into “hope” and into voting to consolidate power in the hands of a few out of fear (Star Wars, anyone?), I desperately needed a worship service. Marcia McFee delivered, with my new favorite song, no less (“For Everyone Born” – if you don’t know this hymn, you should).
And finally, following the worship service, young people were invited to respond in the press room. Our conversation was holy, hopeful, and a deep blessing to me. My evening ended on a very hopeful note. And no one had to show me a video to get me there.
On a lighter note, I almost won the twitter war yesterday (beat out by @RevAdamHamilton by a bit!), and received the best tweet of my life: “Overheard @ #gc2012 : If I were into girls, I’d be kissing @pastorbecca (b/c of her awesome talk).”