Ah, here we go again. Yesterday, in the selection of legislative committee leadership, our true colors came out. A fair, open system for selecting the best leaders or a contrived process where various special interest groups manipulate the process to get “their” candidate elected? Guess. So far, manipulation, is the most accurate word to describe our machinations. And I am not necessarily saying this is all bad. This is a clear indication of the deep passion and intense concern people have at this General Conference. It remains to be seen whether these people will rise to be good leaders or mere tools of a limited agenda. We hope and pray for the best, for at the very least, this is a republican process (note the lower case, similar to democratic — which this is not). In the republic, the rights of the individuals always trump the common good. There is very little about this conference so far — apart from the preaching in worship — that is focusing on either the common good or the will of God. There are simply too many “positions” vying for supremacy.
An interesting response to my post on rules. Some people are reading my position as “we don’t need rules.” I never meant to give that impression. What I do believe is that our rules come from our heart and thinking, not from God. At the very best, the rules we receive from God still get processed through our filters and interpretations. Our church is the way it is today through an ongoing and healthy process of making, breaking, revising and reestablishing rules. Almost every rule limiting human rights has been finally changed to widen the circle and be more, not less, inclusive.
A fascinating encounter with a delegate from Mozambique. I made the comment “we are a people still being guided by the Holy Spirit.” The delegate responded, “you mean the Scripture.” I said, “no, I believe that God did not stop speaking when humans closed the canon of scripture. I believe the Spirit is still working in us.” Undeterred, she said, “You mean scripture.” I asked her to help me understand where we were not communicating. She said, “Scripture is sufficient for our faith. God speaks through the Scriptures, and the Spirit interprets Scripture for us. There is nothing else. The Spirit guides us by revealing God’s Will to us through Scripture. We cannot add one word to the Holy Word. So, when you say Spirit, you mean Scripture.” I still disagree with this position, but it is a helpful way to see faith from what I called a second level worldview and value set — having a very clearly defined set of guidance and rules that define who belongs and who remains yet to reach and include. The people of God are the people of the Book. Sola scriptura. Ambiguity is reduced by an absolute authority. A definite and specific definition of the living Word.
I still hold the we are the living Word, the scripture that is being constantly written by God. The Spirit of God is the author-ity, and we are in a constant process of working out our shared and collective salvation, hopefully with fear and trembling. In watching behaviors, I am not so sure. I have been dismayed by the “entitlement” mentality that stand is stark contrast to the humility we were invited to yesterday. I am watching my brothers and sisters speak angrily and horribly to wait-staff, hotel-staff, convention center staff, and even to one another. At a restaurant, a “gentleman” reduced his server to tears and at the top of his voice screamed, “No way you get a tip!” Today, a booth scheduled to open at 7:30 had the audacity to not open until 7:38. People took their annoyance out on the poor volunteers working the booth. On person spat, “I am much too important to be made waiting this long.” And another muttered abut the “stupid assholes” who couldn’t tell time. I wish these were the only two incidents I could name, but they are examples of multiple encounters I have seen in the past two days. What a witness to the world about United Methodists…
Well, today we launch our legislative committees. May we remember that we are about ministry and not the business of winning and losing. (Note: I just typo-ed “sinning and losing.” Freudian?)