A commitment to look for the good. A time to focus on the positive.
I don’t want to give a completely one-sided view of my General Conference experience. There is much grace and goodness here. I want to share some stories that I find very hopeful and inspirational.
A woman from North-West Katanga shared her feelings about Rule 44. “I am so glad for this (Rule) because it says that I am more than a vote — I am a person with a story. Without Rule 44, no one cares about my story; I am only a vote.” It was heartening to hear someone from one of our central conferences so eloquently capture Rule 44.
In sub-committee, I am sitting with brothers from Africa and the Philippines. We are working as a small team to explain and assist one another through a sometimes confusing process with a huge quantity of complex information. When we adjourned for the evening, we agreed to sit together again today so that we can continue helping each other.
Fellowship in the hallways, and the chance to engage in (sometimes challenging and anxiety producing) conversation, and to discuss options is wonderful.
People are trying — in two senses of the word. They try each other’s patience, but they also are giving their very best effort to stay engaged and connected. People are working hard. People are praying hard. People are passionate on every side. The pages and marshals are very helpful and mostly friendly. The Oregon-Idaho volunteers are a delight. The convention center staff is great. However, it is impossible to find a Diet Coke here, so it falls short of perfection.
The African delegations are the most engaged and politically organized as I have ever seen them at General Conference. There is some complaint and suspicion that they are being “coached,” but the fact is, they have found their voice and they are using it. There is incredible awareness that by 2020 and definitely in 2024, the majority of delegates to General Conference will come from the Southern Hemisphere. We are witnessing a tectonic shift of our ecclesial plates!
Protests, witnesses, civil disobedience, vigils and challenges have, for the most part, been very civil, respectful and non-intrusive. Confrontations have been kept to a minimum and people are respectfully avoiding those with whom they vehemently disagree. We need more opportunities to talk to each other that aren’t purely about legislation, but it doesn’t look like this conference will allow it. Rejecting Rule 44 took a huge chunk of real (and some forced) dialogue off the table.
If we can only display a bit more patience — many things (especially technological) have not worked as planned, and some are getting in the way of our work and are distracting from our core process. A Spirit of peace-making could help us all a lot. Kindness and gentleness are rare and precious commodities. I am prayerful we may be much more open to the Spirit that the fruit of God’s Spirit might be in abundance in and through us.