I’ve been thinking a lot about big “C” Church lately. All of my favorite Methodists (okay, notall of them, but quite a few of them!) are in Tampa for General Conference (or GC12 as it is now commonly known on Twitter!) `I’ve been following the blogs and Facebook status updates of those who have gone to act as delegates, volunteers, witnesses and voices for this great thing we call The United Methodist Church. For those out of the Metho-dork realm, GC12 is a convening of representatives from the majority of conferences of the UMC around the world. It is during this time, held every four years, that the important decisions of policy, language and structure are decided for the world-wide UMC. There are a few very important issues that are being discussed, debated and prayed over in this 10-day period. Issues on the inclusion of the LGTBQ community, restructuring language in our Discipline to be more inclusive and divestment from companies that invest in war and oppression, to name a few.
As I read the posts of David, Mary and others, I long to be there. I feel this strong urge to go and represent what the Church means to me. To be a witness to the decisions made on my behalf. To stand alongside those who have been hurt but are still hopeful for change. Many of my friends went not as voting members, but simply (or should I say powerfully) as a voice. A voice for those whose voices have been shut out, an advocate for inclusiveness, a witness to all that we hope for for the Church. And I think it is incredibly brave. There are many different voices and opinions at GC12. And there is a lot happening in the votes this year that will redefine so much for the Church. But what I am amazed at, is that despite so many differences, so many barriers, there is still a conversation happening. Mary has been sharing so honestly about her conversations, even the difficult ones. But her blog this morning made me tear up. “It is because this place is so often so full of love that I can continue to be a United Methodist. THIS is the Connection! This is the place where we come together.” And it gives me hope…
I have a friend from seminary, whom I still keep in loose contact with via Facebook. A friend that, even during our seminary years, I didn’t always agree with. I have seen posts on his page (as I am sure he has seen on mine) that have often made me wonder, “why are we still FB friends? We have nothing in common!” He has been actively following GC12 via Twitter and the official GC newsfeed, and then posting his views and comments on his page. Many I have not agreed with. But then….in the midst of a struggle happening in Tampa, a divisive issue coming to light, glaring pain and all, I read this on my friends page, “It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you are on, that type of behavior (speaking of bullying and blatant exclusiveness) is unacceptable.” And later, “we can continue to hope for fellowship.” And in that moment, I was so proud to be this man’s friend. Despite our differences in theology, rhetoric, political stance, etc…..there is something deeper and stronger that connects us. To be a part of the Church doesn’t mean we all agree all the time. It means we love unconditionally, work for justice and peace…together.
I see this in my own church, here in Seattle. We don’t always agree. We aren’t always on the same page. We come from different backgrounds, have varying passions and opinions. But no matter our differences, there is something so common amongst us, that we cannot help but love one another. There is something so bold, and yet so quiet, that ties us together that even when our words clash and our heads hurt from discussing and conferencing and meeting and listening…even with all that, we continue to stand unified in our love for Christ, for the Church and for one another.
In the words of Pastor Kathleen following every Sunday sermon,
“May it be so. Amen.”