Elevators, Walls, and other structures

Still reeling from a conversation that I had in the hotel elevator this afternoon. A woman asked me why I was here and when I told her, she said, “Why are all these foreigners here with you?” I explained that we are a global church, and that over 40 percent of our delegates are from outside of the United States. She was genuinely shocked. She ended by saying, “Well, there sure are a lot of them.” So, I don’t know if my answer inspired a positive response in her or not.

I understand where she’s coming from. Even with my desire to be sensitive to the cultural differences, I sometimes am frustrated with trying to get through a crowd of people who don’t have the same sense of space and time that I do. So, maybe my words can remind both of us to be more sensitive.

We are still working on what it means to be a global church. Sometimes I think we need to go back even further – do we even WANT to be a global church? We have to get beyond what it means to give up power. A woman at my table (our delegations are mixed together somewhat) said she didn’t think we should be yielding anything to the Central Conferences because we have to operate from “a position of strength.” A friend from the German delegation said that the delegates from Europe feel disenfranchised because of the constant talk of proportional representation (being pushed by the big areas). Think of how the state of WV would fare in a conversation about proportional representation with NY State or Texas and you might know how she feels. Tony Campolo says that when you play power games you lose even if you think you win. And the one who loves the most has the least power. Up tomorrow is church restructure – should speak volumes about power and power struggles.

Today I sent out my first ever original tweet — I’m still not sure how folks can keep up with it. For me, it’s way more than multi-tasking. However, in the midst of our celebration of pan-Methodist churches (those churches that share our common Wesleyan heritage, but who have not reunited – and probably never will), we had an incredible gospel soloist who sang about “walls” and the refrain was “Jesus, break down the walls of confusion; break down the walls of delusion; break down the walls of injustice….”

Tonight Joe and I listened to Tony Campolo speak. Joe likes to compare him to a Christian version of Dick Vitale. He is so entertaining, and so inspirational. I left with smile on my face and an uplifted spirit – which at this point of General Conference is not a bad thing at all.

And we did make some progress on the floor — we have worked steadily through the day. In the end it seems little in comparison to the amount that needs to be done. Probably the biggest piece of legislation ends guaranteed appointments for clergy. I have heard from many in our conference upset by this, but another of our delegates says he heard from people who are pleased. The reality is we will have to see how it goes and what it means. I can see advantages in the ability to transition ineffective pastors, but the obvious concerns are in the protections to women and minorities. And, many have expressed the concern that they have made a covenant to itinerancy and would go where they are sent, and the church’s side of the covenant was that there would be a place for them to go. Also, there is a perception that there is a two-tiered itinerancy. In keeping with my covenant with Diane in writing the blog, I will not dwell on my personal opinions of legislation (not because I don’t have them!) because that really isn’t the point. I’m happy to discuss any of that with any of you personally.

We had long, involved debates on a variety of things. We also used the new minority report rule for the first time, and I estimate that it saved about 45 minutes to an hour of floor time. The idea, crafted by the Rules committee, is that we choose which report to work on before taking amendments, etc. While they didn’t choose the one I wanted — if we did it the old way, we would have spent time amending both before then choosing the one I didn’t want anyway. So, at least that was a small victory.

The other day I met with the Inter-Jurisdictional Committee on the Episcopacy to which I was elected and didn’t realize it (oops! Must read the DCA more carefully!). They actually joked that it was a committee that rarely met because it involves moving bishops between jurisdictions. However, today we had two called meetings, one over lunch and one at the start of dinner. So much for committees that don’t meet.

I must be a glutton for punishment because I actually get energized by the legislative process – even though it can be frustrating. I am enjoying (for the first time) following twitter – though I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing. (And just got an email that said one of the groups here is now following me.  They’re optimistic from one tweet and a few re-tweets…)

Heard good news that Scarlett is doing better.  We still miss Fred and his strong, solid presence.  I think Royce is enjoying her time, although her mother is ill and she may need to go home early (and that’s why you have TWO reserves.)

Thank you to all who have been praying for me. Appreciate the kind words, emails and Facebook posts! It means more than you can know.

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