Having bogged down in a rather embarrassing debate over what rules to adopt to conduct our business, we are ready on Day Two to move forward. Or are we? What was depressing about our engagement was the nitpicking, posturing, petulant, occasionally disrespectful and unnecessarily contentious nature of the proceedings. If this is a glimpse of the way a minority of delegates will perform, we are in for some pretty petty encounters. Majority did not rule (quickly enough) and a few personal agenda held the body captive for an unnecessarily extended poor stewardship of time. This is not what we are here for.
There is so much distrust and suspicion about motives and hidden agendas. So much “us/them” language. So much political machinations behind the scenes. Yes, I am aware this is General Conference, and as it is it always was and ever more shall be. I’m not naïve or stupid (much). But what are the outward and visible signs that we are growing up and moving forward? Just because it “always happens this way” should not be a badge of pride. Doing better should be a goal. And so far, we aren’t doing better. And we truly cannot afford same-old, same-old.
This morning in his Episcopal address, Bishop Gregory Palmer, called us to exercise humility and divest ourselves of our pride, place, prestige and power. Are we able? Humility does not mean weakness, nor does it call for an abdication of principles and core values. It does call on us to interact differently, and to care for and about those we oppose. Serving each other, respecting each other, and honoring each other cannot occur apart from humility. We all “love” each other generically and abstractly, but we do not care for each other. This is sad.
Doing no harm seems beyond us. We are ambivalent to the ways we hurt each other. Knowing that we should not in no way prevents us from attacking, insulting, impugning, disparaging, and mocking “them”. Praying “about” is not the same as praying “with” and praying “for”. We cannot conceptualize the reality that there is no “those people.”. Either “we” are “we” as the body of Christ, or we are not. We will never get to any kind of positive future, if we commit to stay mired in an untenable, unpleasant, unkind present.
Go, Therefore is our General Conference theme, but we should not “go” anywhere if all we can do is spread distrust, malicious gossip, slander and slurs, insults and infection. We must shift our focus from what we aren’t to what we can be; from how we are broken to how we are gifted; from a dismembered corpse to the vital, living body of Christ.