I Won’t Be “In the Room Where It Happens”

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. IMG_1024We’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,







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41 thoughts on “I Won’t Be “In the Room Where It Happens”

  1. Thanks for your words and witness, my friend. And, prayers for your complete healing. Peace to you. Larry Hays

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Nancy Silverfield February 17, 2019 — 1:01 pm

    May you heal quickly. Much love and many prayers to all,
    Nancy S

  3. God bless you Pastor Jim. You are in my prayers 🙏🙏


    Sent from my iPhone


  4. We shall pray for you Jim. Claire wants to know if she can post your report on the Knight page? Or you post it and she will approve it. God bless you Jim Russ Williams

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Russ: Thanks! If you think it’s appropriate for the page, it’s okay with me for her to post it.

  5. Well written Jim. I am so sorry you are laid up and will miss the conference, but glad your treatment is working well. We’re pulling for you to get better soon and make a full recovery!


    > >

  6. Prayers and good thoughts for a speedy recovery !
    Rich and Sally Baker

  7. Jim and I are praying for continued good results as well as a definite diagnosis. Love to you and Martha.

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Jim, praying for your healing and for same for Christ’s body on earth. Peace, David

  9. carmenac@hargray.com February 17, 2019 — 2:29 pm

    Oh Jim! Hate to think of you undergoing this ordeal! Thinking of you , kid, and your medical team. As a latter day Whiskeypalian, I’m not up to date on the Methodist crossroads to which you refer, but am sure the process in St Louis would go better with you there. May God speed your recovery. Blessings, Carmen

    Sent from my iPhone


  10. Thank you, Jim. Taje care of yourself!!

  11. Hey There, young James – we cant have you messing about exchanging Plasma and idling your time away in a Hospital, admiring the view and being mollycoddled by charming ladies!! C’mon now – back in the saddle………… Arthur and the folks at Yarm Methodist Church in England pray for your rapid return to robust health and send our best wishes to Marsha and the family.



    1. Arthur: The sounds of your laughter is a day-brightening gift! Thanks for the encouragement and for the prayers of the Methodists at Yarm! Jim

  12. Jim I wish you a complete recovery! Your voice will be missed at the conference but your spirit will be felt by all the delegates that know your love for the church!
    Shalom from Israel

  13. Thank you for your wonderful words and wisdom. I was sorry to read of your health issue – healing prayers for you. I enjoyed your sermons at First Church Orlando when you were filling in.

  14. Jim,

    We are so sorry to learn of your health issue. We join all those who know and love you in praying for your speedy and full recovery. Thank you so much for sharing your very insightful thoughts and suggestions about the SGC in St. Louis. I hope they will be widely and carefully read by many delegates, because, as usual, you are giving excellent advice.

    We love you and Martha.

    Grace, peace, and UNITY!

    Tom and Andrea >

  15. Thank you,Jim, for your insight and testimony of your faith. We serve a mighty God who can bring forth new solutions to every challenge. Keeping you and Marsha in my heart and prayers, Judie

    Sent from my iPhone


  16. The theme of the Presbyterian women’s Bible study this year is God with us. May God be with you in your healing and may God be with Methodist in St. Louis as they work toward common ends of the church. God’s will be done.

    Jean Norman Trinity Presbyterian Church Pensacola, Florida

    Sent from my iPad


  17. Prayers for you, your family and all the medical staff working with you! Thank God for the technology which enables so many of us to be aware of what is happening in your life and join together in prayer. Also, as always, thank you for your words of wisdom and grace concerning the SGC this week.

  18. I join you in praying that the gathering in St. Louis will be prayerful in their listening, open to accepting differences and
    committed to unity in the Spirit. Love and best wishes to you and Martha as you travel the road of illness and treatment
    that can lead to health and wholeness. I rejoice that God is with you.


  19. Shocked to hear of your medical issues. Please know that there is a lot of love coming your way. You have ministered to so many, now accept our ministry to and with you. Our love to Marsha and family also as I know they will be greatly concerned until this is resolved hopefully in healing for you.

    Peace for the journey, Larry/Jean

  20. Thank you, Jim. Your perspective and prayer helps me.

    Stephen Bryant
    The Upper Room

  21. Carolyn Bricklemyer February 18, 2019 — 12:35 am

    Sorry to hear you are in the hospital but glad you’re getting good care. Hope it continues to go well.

    Take care. Thinking good thoughts.


    Sent from my iPhone


  22. Jim: We are praying for you and the conference. Get better soon!

  23. Dear Jim, Best wishes from Tampa. My prayers are with you and your family, as well as your medical team. Ellen Whitaker

    Sent from my iPhone

  24. Jim,

    May I join the hundreds who appreciate your thoughts in praying for healing for you . . . and our denomination.

    United in Christ, Rev. Mike Brinkman

    Sent from my iPad


  25. Jim,
    Praying for healing and recovery. I very much appreciate your comments and views. Your calming presence will be missed. Unfortunately, no matter what happens, Satan is laughing with delight.

  26. Prayers for your full recovery Jim and thanks for your very wise words as we approach GC2019.

  27. Thank You Jim!!! Praying for your healing & recovery!!

  28. Jim,

    Katie and I sure hope that you feel better and healing is swift and permanent. Thanks for your ever-thoughtful and wise writing and for the time you invest in leading this flock.

  29. Saying prayers for complete healing!


    Carol Albritton LeBus 813/380-0142 carollebus@gmail.com

  30. belltwin@gmail.com February 18, 2019 — 4:27 pm

    May God continue to bless you and keep you during this health challenge. As Wayne so often reminded us, let me repeat “YOU ARE LOVED”. Many will be keeping you and your loved ones in their prayers and thoughts, and I am one of the many!

    Changes continue to happen at FUMCO, and only time will tell how these changes play out. I’m sure Bob Bushong will find just the perfect pastor (s) to carry us forward. And we already have an award-winning choir director, which is a great step forward in our goal of diversity!! I love “Open Minds, Open Hearts, Open Doors”, and prayerfully continue to support this logo.

    Sincerely, and with great admiration, Eleanor Crawford

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

  31. Hi Jim

    Wishing you a complete recovery. Thanks for the update and your always thoughtful analysis.

  32. Dear Jim, you are well-loved and appreciated for all you do…please take great good care of yourself, and please do know you are having prayers showered on you. Love and Blessings, Anne Smith

  33. Prayers for you and your family during this treatment and healing journey!

  34. Jim,

    So sorry to learn of your hospitalization. Get well my friend!!

    Rob Fuquay

  35. Oh Jim I am so very sorry to hear this news but am immensely grateful for the good prognosis! Few people with know the tremendous amount of work you have invested leafing into the Special Session. As my former pastor and someone who I consider a mentor and friend over the years I continue to be amazed at how God has blessed and used your gifts and graces. I have no idea what’s going to come out of the gathering in St. Louis, but whatever it is we will need your wisdom, leadership and guidance so “heal quickly”! Prayers for a full recovery. Grace and peace – Alice Williams

  36. Dear Jim,
    Praying for your complete and swift healing, and same for United Methodists everywhere.
    With gratitude for your work leading up to the Conference,
    Mary Webb & Howard

  37. Praying for your healing and peace and for wisdom for the doctors.

  38. Jim, you are in my prayers for healing and I pray for the healing of our church. Mike Shirley

    Sent from my iPad


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