A nice thing happened as we were leaving legislative committee last night. Two African men stopped me to thank me for “not treating us like we are mentally defective.” I asked what they meant, and they told me that many people have treated them in patronizing and demeaning ways. I explained that it was most assuredly unintentional. They smiled at me and said, “Maybe. You treat us equally and well. Thank you”. It truly made a long and difficult day all worth while.
My wife, Barbara, shared admiration and appreciation for how well controversial topics were dealt with in her legislative session, Faith and Order. When dealing with ¶304.3, there was heartfelt and passionate exchange, but with respect, civility and compassion for differing views. She felt that they could not have disagreed better, and those whose will was not represented by the decision left feeling heard and respected. This is Christian conference at its finest.
As deadlines loom and urgency prevails, people are rising to the task and working together well to get the work done. I am impressed by my own legislative committee, and feel we are making excellent headway and progress. (Of course, I feel this way since almost every vote has gone my way!!)
Barbara and I are worshiping/preaching at Aloha UMC, where good friend Marty Williams is pastor these days. It is so nice to reconnect and to worship together. I will post our sermon, should anyone be interested. Barbara and I really enjoy doing dialogue sermons, though we rarely get the chance. By the way, Happy Pentecost!
We have survived legislative committee. Survived is not too strong a word. In the Church and Society B legislative committee on Friday, the chair collapsed and required EMT service; on Saturday the vice-chair passed out, also requiring emergency medical attention. What does it say about our processes when the stress level is so high that our leaders drop like flies?
During one break yesterday, I saw a young woman sitting at her table who visibly distressed and shaken. I asked her if she were okay, and she smiled, said yes, then went on and said, “The longer I am here, the sorrier I am that I got elected.” Following my “why?” she went on. I don’t understand the “no” votes. How can people vote “no” against caring for creation or caring for victims of crime or gun violence? How can we be against fair economic practices or loving our neighbor? Sometimes 10-15% of our committee votes against these wonderful petitions for human rights. I don’t get it!”. A tear rolled down her cheek, so I sat down with her.
“Look,” I said, “things are always a little more complex than they seem. I met a man who is horrified at what fracking is doing to our planet, but he is the foreman of a fracking operation because he has to feed his family. I know a man from the Oneida tribe who is angry at what gambling has done to his people, but he deals blackjack in a casino to make a living. People have all kinds of reasons for supporting or opposing something. A person may agree with 98% of a petition, but one line or phrase may make them feel it is impossible to vote for it. Also, not everything is as it appears on the surface. We haven’t passed one piece of legislation from the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), because while the titles sound noble and Christian, the content of the proposal promotes a conservative political agenda at odds with the Bible and our Doctrinal Standards. “Uplifting the Poor” and “War and Peace” sound great, until you read carefully what is being offered, and more importantly, what they want to eliminate. People who don’t support these proposals aren’t in favor of war or poverty, they just see the limited and wrong-headed focus of the legislation. You need to look at the end result. People aren’t stupid or easily duped. The minority negatives have not made a real impact on the will of the body. The Holy Spirit is strong and working through us. This is the beauty of the process. The general consensus for all the work we do supports our scripture, supports our theology, and supports our tradition. And where we are stuck, there is still movement forward. Progress is slow, but it is progress. Please stick with this and vote your heart and your conscience, guided by your faith. Keep working in the system, trust the process, and stay faithful to God. (Do no harm — or as little as you can; Do all the good you can; and, attend to the ordinances of God).”
There is a wisdom in group process — therefore, there is a wisdom in “church.” When we gather as baptized community and are open to the Holy Spirit, some pretty amazing things happen.
Categories: General Conference, Personal Reflection, The United Methodist Church
Dan, thank you for the message of hope. I was beginning to despair about our General Conference and the people called Methodist. I have to remind myself that human nature has not changed significantly over the centuries and we that we in the church can fight like cats and dogs. However, throughout the centuries God has continued to work with God’s people. Trust the process; trust in God.