I Won’t Be “In the Room Where It Happens”
Whatever happens in St. Louis, I won’t be (with apologies to “Hamilton”) “in the room where it happens.”
After being deeply engaged in the Uniting Methodists movement in preparation for the General Conference that meets this week, an unexpected, unwanted, unpredictable and still-to-be-diagnosed neurological issue landed me in the hospital where I am undergoing “plasma exchange” treatment. The good news is that it works; the bad news is that it takes time…like 10-15 days. We’re grateful for an excellent hospital just 25 minutes from our home, a top-notch medical team, and a room with a spectacular view. There’s healing power in a Florida sunrise!
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing woman with whom I will celebrate 50 years of marriage this summer, our kids and grandkids, the wide circle of family and friends who love me more than I ever deserved, and the deep peace of the God who walks with us through all the unexpected, unwanted and unpredictable stuff that interrupts our well-planned and well-ordered lives.
Meanwhile in St. Louis…
So, rather than being in the middle of the action, I’ll be watching from a distance. Through everything that has led to this point, I’ve been deeply aware of friends who are just as faithful as I am who want a different outcome than I do. All I can say is that I’ve been as obedience to the leading of the Spirit as I can be without claiming that I have perfect wisdom about what lies ahead.
All of which leads me to my hopes for the church.
I hope the One Church Plan passes by a healthy majority.
It’s not perfect. It doesn’t settle all the questions about human sexuality (as if anything could!). But it gives us “A Way Forward” that bears witness to Paul’s urgent call for us to “lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ” (Ephesians 4:1-3)
It could provide a way for the global UMC connection to continue to be united in mission while honoring the way equally faithful, bible-believing Christians have different convictions about things that are not at the core of our faith and serve in very different contexts.
I hope that “exit proposals” are referred to the 2020 General Conference.
I’ve seen too many unhappy marriages in which estranged partners simply want to get out only to discover that life on the other side of the divorce is more complicated than they expected. If some pastors or congregations are convinced that they must separate from the rest of us, let’s at least have time to sort out the implications of the separations and be as prepared as possible for the unintended consequences that will result.
I hope there will be a calm center in the storm.
As would be expected, the anxiety level has been rising as the Conference comes nearer, not unlike the way the barometric pressure drops in anticipation of a hurricane. There are strong convictions and raging passions on both ends of the debate. Ken Carter, our Florida Bishop and President of the Council of Bishops, has given wise guidance to the bishops who will preside during the Conference:
- To regulate our own anxieties
- To clearly state who we are and our dream for the church
- To avoid reacting to the least mature among those present
- To expect sabotage
- To spend as much time thinking as we spend feeling
- To think about the future beyond St. Louis and move in that direction in a non-anxious way
It’s good advice to leaders in any stressful situation. In the words of T. S. Eliot, I’ll be praying for a “still-point of the turning world” to guide us through these stormy waters.
I hope for healing and new life.
Just the way I hope the procedure I am undergoing in the hospital leads to healing for the only body I have, I pray that the challenges of “this present time will not be worth comparing to what lies ahead” (Romans 8:18-25) for “the people called Methodist.” Whatever the unexpected, unwanted, and unpredictable future holds, as Wesley said, “The best of all is God is with us.”
Grace and peace,