I am very aware that Diane’s posts here are eloquent and mine are practical — but you should at least know that in my thoughts I am very eloquent. I have so many ideas that I want to share, but I also know that many of you are interested in the details of what is happening, so I’ll try to strike a balance. And, you can be grateful for Diane’s posts! (And, Joe is telling me it’s not a competition, but what does he know?) We got coverage on the UMInsight blog. It says that I’m the blog writer – obviously, anyone reading would know that the quality comes from Diane (and all the pictures, etc.) I believe she has linked to the coverage as well.
It’s been quite a couple of days here in sunny Florida (and I know it’s sunny because I walk to and from the convention center at least once a day.) My new home in the plenary is Row 18, Table 1, Seat 6. Although Row 18 sounds like a high number, the rows start in the back, so we are really quite close to the front. I’ll say more about seating later when I get a better idea how it’s working. The first day we shared worship and had participation from 3 deacons from WV – JF Lacaria, Janet Harman, and Ginnie Lowther – assist in communion (yea! WV Deacons). The services provided shoreline images, appropriate for the location along the bay in beautiful Tampa. I was once again reminded at how much I love interpretive dance — I would be happy to have it part of worship much more. There is something so soothing and uplifting about the dance. I am thinking that Heaven will have dancing – and we all will have the ability to move with grace! Bishop Goodpaster (great name, huh?) preached on Radical Hospitality and the Disciples’ response to “follow me.”
This is when my odyssey of presenting the Rules began. I think Diane covered well enough — from my point of view, it was an affirming experience — the culmination of so much hard work. Well, not QUITE the culmination because we had 18 amendments referred to us, which we then had to sort out and come up with recommendations. We worked until after almost 2 and then I came back to the room to sort it out and prepare the report, going to sleep finally about 3:30 am. That alarm came WAY too early. But, a huge shout-out to the Rules Committee who made even the tedious fun — we were still laughing at 1 am. What a great group of people that I will really miss (only 3 of us continue on the Commission). We came back this morning and eventually the body decided to approve things the way they were without even considering the action we had taken on amendments. The woman sitting with me in my legislative committee said that at the end of the vote she tweeted “and now do we take another vote to give them their 3 hours back?” Cute.
Other things of interest this morning: Peter Weaver, Bishop of the New England area, gave the episcopal address. He quoted Bishop McHenry who gave the first Episcopal Address 200 years ago. Afterwards, Bishop Asbury said, “I never did things this way – Why was this new thing introduced.” If he only knew the impact he had on the church of today. He also told us to “do everything as in the immediate presence of God.
Betty Spiwe Katiya said in the laity address that the clergy are like conductors and the laity are the choir – and who should be making the noise? Others spoken of transformations – “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.” The Young Peoples’ report shared stories from around the world with a theme of Charged, Rooted, and United.
After lunch sponsored by Kairos, the afternoon brought legislative team organization, small conversation groups and evening session. My conversation group (another Commission innovation) was wonderful. It was all clergy but me (we self-selected without know who each other was) – 4 clergy men from different parts of Africa, one clergyman from Wisconsin, two young clergy women from Susquehanna Conference and Tennesee Conference, and me. More later on the conversation (I hope!) but I felt that the time together – talking about tough issues without the pressure of legislating – was refreshing. One of the African delegates, who had lost a child to malaria, likened the discussion of sexuality issues here with the discussion of polygamy in his home area. “I have known the pain of my mother being denied membership of the church because she is a second wife. And she has a heart for Jesus.”
My good friend, Judy Nutter, who has roomed with me the last two General Conferences (and assorted other times) had some issues with the Rules that we presented. She spoke eloquently in opposition. The United Methodist News Service covered the day and reported her comments but attributed them to ME. This made it look as if I were arguing against myself. Oops! Someone asked Judy if we were still speaking, and she said, “Of course! We had lunch together.” If everyone could disagree as well as Judy and I do, the church would be a healthy place. (Of course, we have to love each other to start with, which may be the problem).
Two “It’s a small UMC world” events. (1) The pastor of the church Diane attended in college is assigned to sit at the table with the chair of the Commission. Turns out they went to college together and both were surprised the other knew me, as well. (2) Last night during the Rules presentation one of the men on our committee got a text from a former parishioner in Tennessee to tell him that she knew me – It was Tammy Baker (married now, but don’t remember her name) who served on CCYM with Joe back in High School. She was from Duff Street in Clarksburg. I haven’t seen her in 30 years, but do occasionally see her parents. We don’t even know all the ways we are connected.
Well, we passed that bedtime thing, and as soon as they deliver me the final copy of the Rules to proof, I’m heading there. Joe promises a post tomorrow. We will see.