General Conference has taken a nasty turn and an unfortunate direction, with ascribing malice and assuming negative intentions. Civility is at a minimum, and people are now on the attack. My sense is that we are witnessing ineptitude, incompetence and ignorance, not intentional malpractice. We are not being led well, and there is not confidence in our presiding officer. However, ascribing evil intent is over-reaction and unhelpful. The tragedy of this current reality is twofold: first, there is no excuse for not being prepared for this very challenge to this very issue. No one came to General Conference thinking human sexuality and the place of LGBTQI persons in the church would not be a “hot button” issue. Second, our very best corporate meeting leadership should assume the chair through these volatile conversations. We are unprepared, and we have no excuse. All our ugliness is pouring out in frustration, confusion, lack of confidence and lack of trust. There is no one to blame for this mess; we own this one totally and completely.
The call of our bishops to get our act together over the next four years is a reasoned and reasonable request. It doesn’t matter that we should have done it thirty years ago. We didn’t. So, we either choose to do it now, or we throw in the towel. There is no solution to this problem at this General Conference. I repeat, there is nothing we can do to settle anything in this Conference. We didn’t prepare the soil, or lay the foundation (choose what metaphor works for you). Anything we declare one way or the other will appease one group and alienate everyone else. As I wrote earlier, everyone will lose — no one will win.
I just thought of a third wrinkle to the tragedy of our current reality: the world needs us to get our act together. Globally, lots of people count on us. Lots of people are watching us. Lots of people want us to act our age, and to act our faith. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is rotting on our collective vine. We are allowing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) to shrivel and dry up. It is not in evidence in our public display.
This does not have to be our way. We should review the code of conduct we adopt with our conference rules, and hold one another accountable to it. We should actually abide by our rules — under the aegis of grace. God’s grace is being denied. How dare we? Who do we think we are? This is both tragedy and travesty. I have already spouted off how I think we should proceed. I believe we need more time, but time to be proactive rather than passive, aggressive in our approach and process to deal with these issues head-on. Almost four decades of avoidance and superficial engagement has come home to roost. The time has come for us to grow up and face this. Our passive-aggressive behavior must end.
In just an hour-and-a-half, we have polarized the room, choosing sides, drawing a line in the sand, allowing applause to deepen the divisions among us. The bishops offered us a way forward, at the request of the General Conference, and we have undermined their response. This afternoon is evidence that we still are not ready to address one another in civil and Christian conversation. Let’s take the time to do this — to finally DO this — and do it well. Let’s receive what the bishops gave us, work with it, and honor the leadership at all levels that brought us to this current reality, tragic or not. We are all we’ve got, and we’ve got to work this out together.