Staying Healthy

I wrote some of this on Friday and some on Saturday. Both days we have spent most of our time in legislative committees. You can see my spread as we work. I am assigned to General Administration in the sub-committee dealing with Plan UMC Revised. This is a re-visiting of Plan UMC – which was all the excitement of GC2012. The 2016 version of GC doesn’t seem to have much energy for it. Our sub-committee voted to refer it. Some of the makers were in the committee and were obviously disappointed. Investing time and energy in to something you are passionate about can leave you feeling empty. I think I can safely say that. It’s stressful.

Here is Friday‘s prayer from the West Virginia Annual Conference:

“Dear Lord, we lift up Judi today as she fulfills her responsibilities for General Conference. May Christ be in the heart of each to whom she speaks and in the mouth of each who speaks to her. Grant her the rest that will provide the energy she needs; grant her wisdom as she makes decisions and peace as she listens to your voice. Today may the work of the General Conference move us closer to your reign on this earth. Amen.”

In April, the delegation wrote prayers that we wanted to ask the annual conference to pray for us while we were gone. Each day is a different delegate. Today was mine. It was really nice to read it this morning and know that people were being reminded to pray for me.

Every General Conference, I have truly believed that prayers have sustained me. Generally, in the past, just because I managed to stay healthy and have enough energy to complete the work that was in front of me.

I was talking to a first-time delegate in the hallway. A younger man, he told me he had no idea how hard this week would be. He said, “I’m in good shape and healthy and I’m worn out.” Yesterday the leader of one of the legislative committees collapsed on the stage. The diagnosis was de-hydration, lack of food and stress. (Just a note: he is doing fine now and is back at conference). Every year, we hospitalize delegates for stress-related illnesses. As I was preparing to send this, word came that the vice-chair of the same committee had been taken to hospital.

It’s grueling out here…..

The Commission attempted to address some of these concerns by setting the early adjournment time. We break at 6:30 and folks can get dinner and go to bed. Except when they can’t. My mornings start with a 6:30 am meeting. I catch the train at 6:00. I have given up telling myself that’s 9:00 back home. Because then I would have to admit that I went to bed at 2 am the night before.

When I have tried to explain how hard it is to be at General Conference, I realize that until you do it, you just can’t understand. Yes, it is wonderful. Yes, it’s an honor and privilege. Yes, it’s exciting. But it’s also just plain hard work. Emotionally and physically. And I’m tired.

Thanks for your prayers, West Virginia Conference. We are doing our best.

We have heard wonderful sermons, an incredible young people’s address, some impassioned speeches, and now we’re in the process of tediously going through legislation with a 9:30 pm deadline.

Tomorrow is a Sabbath. Never is it more appreciated than at General Conference.

87° Partly Cloudy
200–298 NE Holladay St, Portland, OR, United States

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The View of General Conference from a Marshal’s Perspective

The following post was written by Joe Kenaston:20160513_162056

I like to think of my role as the official greeter of the General Conference!  Imagine a Walmart greeter.  And since I enjoy talking to people, it is a perfect fit!  Most folks I encounter are pleasant, courteous, and appreciative of our help. Marshals help people find where they are going, problem solve, and contact help if it is serious (i.e. – yesterday someone passed out in a meeting and the paramedics had to be called).  We work 6 to 8 hour shifts sometimes starting as early as 6 or 7am (good thing I am from the East Coast) and other times the afternoon or later shift.  Because we are from all over the world we reflect the make-up of the General Conference and it certainly adds a richness to our conversations and experiences.

In addition to being a welcoming presence, I also have to check credentials to ensure the integrity of the process.  Voting delegates have access to inside the bar (where the official conversation and voting taking place) and the others must listen from the visitors’ gallery.  Perhaps a Sam’s Club greeter is more apt than the one who just helps you find a cart.  If the electronic system is not being used, we also help the pages with collecting and counting the votes in sub-committees.

During opening worship, I was at the entrance of Bishops’ family section and enjoyed greeting everyone.  It was delightful catching up with Jane and Clif Ives and Eleanor and Ernest Lyght.  They were the WV bishops from 1992-2004 (Clif) and 2004-2011 (Ernest).  I had one visitor wander into the family section and I had to redirect him to a visitor section.  He laughed and declined the invitation to sit in the spouses’ area as long as he was willing to marry a bishop!

One of the difficult parts of being a marshal is having to be quiet when the discussions, debates, and votes are going on.  I want to help clear up confusion caused by misunderstanding, language, and cultural barriers which are all intensified by a parliamentary process that is common in the English speaking world, but less so elsewhere. (But alas, the marshal’s role does extend that far).  It is also disconcerting to see how the rules of debate can be used to stifle conversation and manipulate the process to a particular political end (I am not referring to chairpersons, but there are many who have that skill).  It was also sad to see the conference choose to be bound by the rules of debate rather than embrace the concept of Christian conversation which was the motivation of Rule 44. (See Judi’s blog for a reflection).

On a joy-filled note, I had a wonderful reunion with the 1976 Northeastern Jurisdictional youth delegates from WV.  Tom Bickerton, bishop of W. PA, Chuck Smith, social worker in Portland, and I have been friends since before we could drive a car.  It has been several decades since the three of us were last together.  It was great to be in the same place!  A joyful picture of the blessed connection!

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For those playing along at home

One of my frustrations being on the east coast/midwest is that I miss lots of the livestream.  (That’s not counting the hours I spend telling myself that I’m going to work instead of watching the livestream… and then I end up checking the twitter feed every five minutes, which also isn’t that helpful for my productivity–or my blood pressure).  While I’m doing local church work, the general church goes on without me. It’s a lesson in humility and patience and trust – and in “keeping the main thing the main thing.”

The good news is that within twenty-four hours, each plenary, worship, and keynote address is posted on the UMC’s Multimedia page. So, if you’re playing along at home, I’ll link to a few videos to get you started. (And then I promise I’ll mostly stay off this blog while Mom, Dad, and Connor do the first-hand reporting! Remember that lesson in humble listening that I’m working on?)

If you are on this blog because you are obsessed with the UMC, I highly recommend watching Bishop Gregory Palmer’s episcopal address.

If you are on this blog because you are obsessed with Judi Kenaston, then you can see her eleven minutes of fame here:

(The embedded video should start at 1:31:07 of the May 10 Afternoon Session)
(I had a local church evening meeting during her afternoon Portland speech, so I had to look this up two days later… and while I was at it, I thought I could share with you!) 

Mom also spoke on Rule 44. You can see her closing statement and the final vote here:



(This embedded video should start at 2:35:25 of the May 12 Morning Session. Speeches for/against and various motions/amendments are found throughout the previous few days’ archival footage

I realize that it’s a bit narrow-sighted to only link to my own mother, but I hope that this gives you a good feel for General Conference plenaries and an easy entry into exploring more of what may interest you at General Conference.

As you livestream and/or watch the archived footage, you may also appreciate this Guide to General Conference.

Now go out and do some local work!

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RULE 44 is NOT FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

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It isn’t that today was a surprise. It’s just that it was a disappointment. I knew all along that we were fighting an uphill battle. Although our blog policy (if families can also make policy) is that we don’t dwell on legislation, I think I can step outside of that because I believe it’s pretty much now internationally known where I stand/stood on Rule 44.

There was posturing as soon as we began presenting the rules. The attempt to make the bar higher to pass the rules was repeated by persons who wanted to defeat it. Today, after the Rules Committee gave its report not recommending any of the amendments offering yesterday, we tried to move to a vote. The bishop gave her ruling that we would vote on the report with just a majority vote. But again it was challenged and the vote to overturn the ruling of the bishop was supported by 5 votes. At that point, I knew it would not pass.

The organized opposition to Rule 44 was strong. There were groups that had organized and lobbied against it. Some of the facts that they used in their arguments were just wrong. The misinformation hurts and it is hard to refute (although I did get a chance to refute some of it, but it was really too little too late as arguments go). I have spent a year interpreting this rule to a variety of groups. But, I cannot match the concentrated effort to defeat it.

So, Rule 44 is not for such a time as this.

Early in this quadrennium I realized that while the task was overwhelming, I could only do what I could, where I could. And “for such a time as this” became part of my daily prayer – that my work would be of use for such a time as this. It helped keep things in perspective and made me realize that, while what I was doing was important, the Kingdom didn’t depend on any one thing I did. It was helpful for me.

But in reality I did want my time to be God’s time. I wanted to see us have these discussions. I wanted to see if we could change the way we did legislation. I wanted to SEE it. But today showed that, while good may come from this, it isn’t coming at GC2016.

But that doesn’t mean that other good things can’t come.

A message from one of my favorite bishops (who has prayed for me and the General Conference daily and told me so):

I hope you can let it go and be at peace about it. Didn’t Jesus say something about “letting one day’s evil be sufficient for the day?”

Many hugs from many people – in person and through cyber space. The hugs make me cry when the disappointment doesn’t.

There are other times. God’s time. Not my time.

As we ended our day in legislative committees, we had devotions together. We prayed these words:

“God, we are not you. Hallelujah! …..We pray that you will guide us to joyful obedience to Christ’s Gospel call on our lives.”

May I be ready when you use me. For such a time as this.

79° Mostly Sunny
200–298 NE Holladay St, Portland, OR, United States

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“…but the Lord’s purpose will succeed” (Proverbs 19:21)

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And Conference begins. I have lived General Conference for four years. So many hours in meetings, emails, phone calls, and conversations. So much prayer. So much joy and pain. So many decisions, big and small.

And now it has begun.

It is really hard for me to not begin with a list of things that have gone wrong on the first day. No one was present for the First Time Delegates Orientation. FAIL. Convention Center WiFi is not what was promised. Queuing tablets can’t work when the wifi is weak. FAIL. Bishop falls from stage and has to be taken to the hospital. FAIL. Interpretation equipment not passed out to everyone and then the list that they had was out of date. FAIL. Training for small group leaders not scheduled prior to small groups happening. FAIL.

See how hard it is for me to not think these things? I just listed those things off the top of my head. I’m sure I didn’t hit them all. In my address to the Conference, I tried to share how hard it is to make everything come together. And the pain that we feel when we don’t.

Joe and I are staying across the river from the Convention Center. It requires coordinating with the train schedule. We are actually fortunate that the Max shut down actually added a train to our stop, so that isn’t really a problem, but what is a problem is that I kick myself for not insisting that I be closer. I should’ve made a better decision. When I made the original reservation I was closer but I couldn’t get the extra days that I needed. But I could’ve moved. And I chose not to. So now – I scream at myself: FAIL. And the funny part is, it really hasn’t been that bad. But my natural impulse is to focus on the FAIL.

All of this makes me realize that I am not allowing room for the spirit to work within the FAILS and create SUCCESS.

Seeing so many friends I haven’t seen in a long time. SUCCESS. So many new friends that I have met. SUCCESS. Ribbon cutting service that I just made it to and then got to speak and cut the ribbon. (Who knew?) SUCCESS. Beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. SUCCESS.

This morning I had the opportunity to address the seminarians that are here for a class and to just absorb General Conference. It was a really neat experience to talk with them about General Conference. It made me realize how much I know (SUCCESS!) And then I had the frustrating experience of dealing with the parliamentary nightmare that is passing our rules. We are trying to pass Rule 44 and it is frustrating that so many people equate the rule with the legislation that the rule might be used for at this Conference. It’s been explained over and over. But people don’t listen. And that’s frustrating.

So tomorrow we will know the SUCCESS or FAIL of the proposal. No matter what – it has been suggested and discussed. So I guess that is SUCCESS.

I have to remind myself that success and failure in my terms, may not be the success and failure God sees. May we now see all the things that go right.

60° Mostly Sunny
777 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, Portland, OR, United States

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Day One

Written by Connor Kenaston, Lay Reserve Delegate from WV

And so it begins… After a long flight, time changes, and not enough sleep, I have finally arrived in Portland! Honestly, much of the first day of General Conference was wonderful. I was surprised at how many people I already knew! In many ways, the first day really felt like a family reunion. Seeing all those friendly faces brought a rush of smiles, hugs, and memories. The intentionally inclusive worship was also powerful. There are few other times in one’s life when one is surrounded by such a rich diversity.  It is truly wonderful to worship in a way that reflects the kingdom of God.

However, General Conference encompasses more than the joy of family-like reunions and powerful worship. And sadly, the first day’s legislative duties brought much of the logjam, confusion, and frustrations that many people had been fearing in the buildup to General Conference. Emotions were not high, but parliamentary strategy, complex rule procedures, and insider-language was running rampant. The decision to delay adopting the rules caused a great degree of confusion and even included us having to work until 9:30pm when we would have finished at 6:30pm!

The letdown of having struggled much and accomplished little is difficult, but I am still hopeful. I am hopeful due to the conversations that I’ve had with other delegates about the future for the church. I’m hopeful due to the reminder of the power of communion and scripture. In all our different languages, cultures, experiences, dreams, and hopes, the Spirit can truly flourish, and so I remain hopeful.

But then again, it’s only Day One 😉

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Even got to hang with one of my former roommates who I lived with in intentional community my first year as a Global Mission Fellow, US-2!

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2016…

It’s been four years since this blog has been updated… what a lot has changed! And yet here we are, as ready as we can be for another General Conference. I (Diane) am not sure how many blog updates there will be this quad, since I’m not on-the-ground in Portland (and no one wants to read commentary from someone whose only connection to GC is “text me when something important happens!”). But I am qualified to get us started with a few family updates, and hopefully Mom, Dad, and Connor will chime in as GC gets underway.

(Same as in 2012: opinions expressed by individual family members do not necessarily reflect the whole family or the groups we’re affiliated with. Judi blogs under “OneMoreStepUp.” Connor blogs under “Stretch Out Your Hand.” Diane blogs under “La Peregrina.” Joe blogs under one of the other usernames, but we’ll always cite his name at the top. Rachel and Adam avoid blogging at all costs.) 

Judi – now the chairperson of the Commission on General Conference:

(yes, we made fun of her for saying “I love the process. I love the way the church works. I like reading the legislation. I really get excited by the workings of the church and seeing our connection work together in the global church”… but the reason we make fun is because it is so true!)

Judi wrote about the worldwide nature of the church and her identity as a United Methodist Christian here.

Joe – now district superintendent of the Southern District of the West Virginia Annual Conference and marshal for the 2016 General Conference

Connor – now a Global Mission Fellow for The United Methodist Church. Connor is wrapping up two years as a missionary for racial justice in Missouri. You can read Connor’s Global Mission blog here. Following the 2014 events in Ferguson, Missouri, he has interviewed African-American Methodists (UMC, AME, and AMEZ) in Missouri to discuss faith and race on a podcast with accompanying free curriculum for local churches.

Connor is a reserve lay delegate from the West Virginia Annual Conference. He and Diane were recently interviewed by UMCom about how to blog General Conference.

(Also at General Conference 2016 is The Lovely Maria, a Global Mission Fellow recently returned from China)

Rachel – now a film editor in New York City (a move up from “assistant film editor” in 2012!). As the only person in the family not employed by the UMC, she keeps the rest of us in good humor by gently poking fun at church bureaucracy 🙂

Diane – now ordained elder in the West Virginia Annual Conference and pastor of University United Methodist Church in St. Louis, MO (blog). Diane is concluding her second quadrennium as a board member for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) and urges delegates to consider how proposed legislation affects women and girls. Specifically, please vote to add “gender” to paragraph 4 of the Constitution!

Adam – In 2013 Adam joined the family in a very churchy wedding in which Diane gave him another PHD – “Preacher’s Husband Degree” 🙂  Adam is a commissioned deacon who teaches historical theology and Methodist history/doctrine at a UCC seminary in St. Louis. His recently published book helps to keep General Conference in perspective: “For Augustine, the unity and integrity of the church were not rooted in the purity of the bishops or the guarded boundaries of the community, but rather depended upon the work of the triune God.”

Prayer for today:

As Judi, Joe, and Connor participate in General Conference, may they be filled with the Holy Spirit. May they stay rooted in You. May they radiate a calm, non-anxious presence. And may all of the delegates, pages, monitors, marshals, observers, reporters, and participants be guided by deep listening, deep love, and deep discernment. Amen!

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A Final Word

It was my intention to write an “end of conference” reaction on the day after conference ended. And then I thought well, perhaps a 48-hours later reflection. But, unfortunately, I hit the ground running and haven’t really stopped since leaving Tampa on Saturday morning. So, perhaps after all this time, I have completely sorted out my thoughts and can offer insightful analysis of all we did. (I hope by now all readers can recognize when I speak tongue-in-cheek).

Friday at General Conference was certainly a wild ride. There was a level of frustration among delegates and visitors that was palpable. The strange part was that the frustration seemed to be a generalized sensation more than something caused by specific decisions or actions. It just seemed to feed on itself. And, as the day went on, the frustration grew. We were running out of time. Everything seemed to be 60/40 – could we really be so divided on everything? Finally, just before lunch we voted on the Commission on General Conference – well, at least those that the Council of Bishops had managed to figure out. (Later in the day they added the remainder of persons from the Central Conferences). I was very disappointed to lose some truly dedicated delegates from this group due to the shift away from the northeastern, north central and western jurisdictions. By chance, we had three people returning from the North Central Jurisdiction and only 2 slots. How the choice was made I don’t know, but I was disappointed to lose a gifted delegate and good friend from the Commission.

During the morning, I was asked by a member of the current executive committee if I would agree to be nominated for chair of the Commission. I had suspected that I would be considered for leadership, but was deeply honored (and a bit overwhelmed) that I was elected as chair. As this nomination came from people that I have a lot of respect for, their confidence in me is extremely affirming.

The afternoon began slowly and it was beginning to dawn on me that we were going to be leaving an awful lot of work unfinished. This includes most of what my legislative committee had done. I was starting to understand the way those on the General Administration legislative committee had felt after working on restructuring for 4 days, and then having nothing to bring forth. And then the 4 pm bombshell – the Judicial Council had found the legislation that we had passed on restructuring was unconstitutional and “unsalvageable.” The experience of being in that room at that moment is something that I won’t soon forget. There was a shocked silence and then a shocked rumbling. All were shocked – those who were gravely disappointed and those who had a sense of relief – all questioned what to do and what would happen next. The plan had been for conference to adjourn by 5 pm (I know this from serving on the Commission). Many people were leaving. Some had to drive long distances, some had important Saturday commitments.

Immediately a 10 minute recess was called for delegations to talk together. Power circles were formed. Looking around, I wondered which power circle could produce the answer we needed. But more importantly, was the sense I had that the Holy Spirit had moved through our clunky, awkward, very human process and stopped us from doing something that we shouldn’t do. Sometimes “no” is a very strong word, and it was my feeling that we had heard a resounding, “NO!” We had a very long dinner break – much longer than I felt was necessary, but we came back with a sense of resolution and were curious to see what would happen next.

Perhaps my sense that we were finally going to do the RIGHT thing, made the proposal that was brought to the floor more difficult to swallow. Refer the plan to the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table so that they could fix the “unconstitutional” parts. (Fix the unsalvageable?) This really did not sit well with the delegates. Perhaps all was made worse by the inclusion of the “possibility” of an additional session of General Conference at a ridiculous cost. Whatever the reasons, the conference was having nothing of it, and eventually agreed to table the proposal to work on some legislation that would make the sizes of the boards and agencies smaller (proposals that had come from the agencies themselves). These proposals did not include the increase in delegate representation from the Central Conferences. But even this may be one of the areas that needs to be perfected. How do we make this truly representative of the membership that we have? Our past has not included the idea of proportionality. Is this what our future should look like? Or should we be concentrating on areas where our growth is stagnated? Is proportional representation truly the way forward? Is squeezing the areas that are struggling and taking away the representation that they have really the best thing to do? I think again of the impact that this had on the Commission – and the mix of fate that kept me from being in this same situation.

So, we did what we could, left much work undone, and decisively declared that we did not want to lift the legislation from the table and refer it. And we left at the end after a brief worship service, still dazed.

Even with Joe’s help, it took far longer to pack up our stuff (partly because he was convinced that they weighed WAY too much, but I am pleased to say that our checked bags came in at 47 pounds each). I was glad that we had a noon flight. The night was still short, but we didn’t have to get up at the crack of dawn.

I truly believe the prayers that were offered for me for strength allowed me to make it through two weeks of conference feeling really good. Even with so little sleep, I had energy and never had a headache. I made up for it all on the trip home, however – my head hurt the whole way home and I felt exhausted. It is hard not to think that my physical expressions were related to my spiritual ones. The affirmation that I had felt while there, the sense of God being present, the kinship with so many who love the church and labor so hard in the vineyards gave way to the despair that even we, present with the Holy Spirit, cannot agree, or even treat each other with love. We cannot through our human processes reach the Divine.

I still love the UMC. As one tweet said during the conference, “When I consider leaving the UMC, I realize all my reasons for leaving are completely United Methodist.” General Conference was a wild ride. And, I do wish I could say I have sorted it all out, but I haven’t. I do know, however, that although we, in our humanness, can never reach high enough that we will touch God, the triumph of the incarnation is that God reached TO US and continues to search for us. And, as we finally affirmed in our legislation, “Nothing Can Separate Us From the Love of God.”

Thank you for following along with all of us as we experienced the General Conference. Your love and support in all ways uplifted me. So, unless I have a sudden revelation (not impossible!) or think of something I have neglected to say, you can look forward to more from Jurisdictional Conference in July!

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Breathe. The Kin(g)dom will survive.

I regularly send e-mails to myself in the future at futureme.org.  This time last year, Past Me was particularly helpful in sending words of wisdom for General Conference (Past Me is so smart!), and as we move forward post-General Conference,* I hope it’s helpful for you too.
*If you would like to join the DreamUMC movement, I encourage you to participate in the #dreamumc tweet-up next Monday night.
FutureMe.org

The following is an e-mail from the past, composed 11 months and 30 days ago, on April 26, 2011. It is being delivered from the past through FutureMe.org

Breathe.  The Kin(g)dom will survive.

Dear Self,

It’s General Conference time. You’re probably stressed. But in the scheme of salvation history, this little conference—with its politicking, drama, petitions, arguing, bickering, and injustice—is not going to make or break the *in-breaking of the kin-dom.*

Get some sleep. Don’t obsess. Be kind to your family. Love on your enemies, even those from the ___ Movement.

Love,

(Past) Diane

PS. Praying for the voices of global women!

PPS. How are Crossroads and Waverly?!?

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For the record, I am really enjoying my time at Crossroads and Waverly 🙂

Mom comes to town tomorrow to lead a pre-conference workshop in the district.  I’m looking forward to seeing her outside of Tampa.  This spring we have only seen each other four times: once in Tampa for a pre-General Conference training, once at a conference leadership team meeting in WV, once at my aunt’s house for Easter afternoon (when the extended family re-hashed the Easter music and services at over five different churches… we sure know how to party!), and then at General Conference.  Thank goodness for the district meeting tomorrow and annual conference in a few weeks!  And thank God even more that we have plans for our annual mother/daughter backpacking trip this summer… it will be good to get outside instead of stuck at church meetings!

But for now it’s off to Church Council…

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Digging into the Archives

by Connor Kenaston, Yale College ’14

Although this post was written yesterday before the Judicial Council (see the two posts written last night) ruled that the Plan UMC was unconstitutional, we feel that this analysis still applies.  Connor writes that his post is “slightly outdated now but still relevant.”  I (Diane) argue that it’s not even outdated, since a) if the Judicial Council had not ruled, the “de-toothing” of GCSRW/GCORR would have gone into effect, and b) even with the Judicial Council’s ruling, the aspects of the Call to Action that focus on membership and money (rather than discipleship, stewardship, and justice) are still in effect.

This weekend, I will finish my sophomore year of college.  I took my last exam Friday morning, and I just have a few more edits to my term paper for my history course on the American South.  I am writing about the role that leaders of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) had in racial violence during the early 20th century.  In 1844, the Methodist Episcopal Church split over slavery to create a northern branch (MEC) and a southern branch (MECS).

In my paper, I argue that due to the work of African Americans, northern Methodists, and women in the MECS, the MECS attitude toward African Americans gradually developed from evangelism into the ideology of paternalistic uplift (though consistently under the bubble of segregation) and finally to an official anti-lynching platform in 1930.  Despite this anti-lynching legislation, the MECS did not present a strong united front against racial terrorism because it was divided over issues such as religion’s role in politics and the pervading influence of the Lost Cause and its heritage of slavery and white supremacy.  These divisions contributed to the ambiguity and contradictions of the MECS leadership and forced the MECS position towards racial violence to evolve glacially over a span of 50 years.

I found many eerie connections between the MECS Conference of 1930 and the UMC General Conference of 2012.  Recent legislation at General Conference essentially de-toothed the agencies that stand up for women and African Americans, the two groups that were vital for pushing the church’s focus from purely “saving souls” to uplift, and finally to a recognition of the worth of the African American.  Recent legislation at General Conference deals with the idea of “vital congregations” which attempts to measure churches primarily on membership & finances. Wait.  Doesn’t this sound like the first stage of development, a focus simply on evangelism and numbers?  The United Methodist Church seems to be moving backward in terms of standing up for justice.

I argue that the correlation between activism and Methodism indicates that Christianity can inspire a person to pursue justice despite cultural hegemony.  However, the divisions and contradictions of Methodist leadership in the South made the church’s position toward racial violence a painfully slow evolution spanning upwards of 50 years.  As Methodists, we have a rich heritage of individuals standing up for justice, but we unfortunately also have a heritage of inaction and silence.  (Though they may need to do some of their own research since Archives & History took a hit this week) I hope that the delegates to General Conference 2012, 2016, and beyond will consider our Methodist heritage.

  • What is the anti-lynching legislation of the 21st Century?
  • What are the justice issues staring us in the face today while we focus on boosting membership and financial security?
  • When future scholars look back on General Conference 2012, will they be frustrated by our sluggish response to economic injustice, immigration, LGBT, sexism, or racism?

I cannot control the official stance of the church (as frustrating as this may be), but I can address these issues in my own life and on a local level.  Individual actions turn the wheels of change- they did in the early 20th century and they do now.  I hope that other individual Methodists will stand with me as we attempt to combat these issues over the next four years so that in 2016, our church may stand for justice and not simply for survival.

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