Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tues Pictures and Process at GC

Tuesday was another long day of work at General Conference. The legislative process is tedious, pushing you to the edge of frustration with your brothers and sisters as there is always someone wanting to be recognized to ask a question or add an amendment.

Actually, that’s not so bad. What’s frustrating is when with a vote the conference expresses its “mind” on a matter, and then someone tries to do a “run-around” by changing a petition relating to the same subject. There have been times when we have “tinkered” with the legislation so much on the floor with amendments that you wonder if the petition will make any sense when it’s put in context in the Discipline.

Still, significant work gets done. We did approve yesterday the new mission statement, that I opposed. Now our mission is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” My earlier post states why I thought it would be ambiguous and unhelpful. But, it won’t hurt us and there are bigger fish to fry.

The worship times, dinners, celebration moments, etc., that punctuate the proceedings keep us going. I don’t think we could do this without those frequent “change of pace” events. The picture is of the Higher Education Dinner. It is always an excellent event, good food and this time a choir made of students from a variety of our colleges and theological schools. Kelsey and I were fortunate to sit at the table with representatives of Africa University. The acting chancellor, Dr Fanual Tagwira, remembered me from a mission trip there in 2000! The picture is of Kelsey with Bishop Nhiwatiwa, episcopal leader of the Zimbabwa Annual Conferences.

Walking into the convention center yesterday morning there was a display, a reminder of the cost of war. Shoes, most of them army boots were set across the lawn. It was a powerful reminder that as we meet and debate, there are serious issues and conflicts across our world that need the church’s message and witness. We cannot afford to “do church” just to do church, but to bring the hope of Christ to our broken world.

The Hope for Africa Children’s Choir that blessed us the day before was back at the lunch break for those who were in the convention dining area. Such energy. Then when the president of Liberia, Ellen Sirleaf, addressed us in the afternoon, they sang for her. Sirleaf's address was historic, the first leader of a country from the continent of Africa to address GC. She said, as a good politician would, “I am a United Methodist. I see my Bishop and my pastor here. And I am the product of U M education in Liberia. I feel very much at home here.”

Big legislation in the evening as we debated and debated and finally passed the report of the Episcopacy Study Committee. The effect of the petition is to reduce the number of bishops by one in every jurisdiction, saving the church $14 million beginning in 2013. Carolyn Briscoe of our delegation was on that committee and did a great job representing the petition. Janet Forbes, chair of the legislative committee that brought the petition to the floor of the Conference, represented the effort to defeat the petition. After it passed they went to each other and hugged. It was a small act, unnoticed by nearly everyone, but I thought, “wow, that’s the way Christians struggle with differences.” I was proud of Kesley, gaining the microphone to ask a question about the legislation.

When we got back to the hotel, we had to take the service elevator to our floor. Then Secret Service agents kept us from going to our room. President Sirleaf was staying in the suite our floor. Lauren said the hotel desk had called the day before wanting the names of everyone in our room, not just my name. Guess we were all checked out by the government yesterday. You never know.

It is Wednesday morning. The worship that is beginning is fantastic and then we will hear the Africa University presentation. But there is tension in the air as we’ve heard that this is the day Soulforce tends to interrupt GC with a demonstration. I hope I can capture more os this morning in a later post.

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