Saturday, July 19, 2008

Episcipal Elections

Wow, what a day.

Saturday morning at 1:00 A.M. Elaine Stanovsky from the PNW was elected bishop on the 25th ballot.

As predicted things got pretty interesting after one election. At one time Janet and Elaine were essentially tied, then support again shifted to Elaine. Both were good candidates and Janet would have served the denomination well also.

The delegation is proud for Elaine and our work with her but now we are faced with the reality of losing her leadership and we do not know yet who our new Bishop will be.

Peace Y'all,


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Between Generations

It really sucks to be a Gen X clergy.

The boomers are in control and the Millennials are on the rise. Squeezed in the middle are us poor suckers with the misfortune to be born after JFK was shot and before the Challenger space shuttle blew up. One Episcopal candidate here at Jurisdictional totally disregarded my generation in talking about the generations of the church. I have been informed that I am too old to meet with the younger people to caucus with them. (I crashed one gathering anyway.) Among my clergy colleagues I am seen as one of the young ones, among the young adults I am one of the old clergy.

I really sucks to be 39.

In other news the voting for Bishops has come to a standstill.

After 5 ballots there has been little movement among the top 5 contenders. As of the 5th ballot this is how things stand.

Grant 42
Elaine 21
Renae 19
Youngsook 14
Janet 13

Two of those are likely to be elected unless some great surprise happens tomorrow. It all depends on the fallout of the caucus groups and as the others withdraw. There are still 40 votes being used on candidates with little chance to make a sudden rise. Distributing those 40 among these five will determine a lot of the future. Presently I am voting for two women. I am convinced Grant will make a good Bishop but presently I wish to support some women to see how this sorts out.

I am hopeful that the PNW will be assigned a women as Bishop but there is a lot to happen between now and Saturday.

Peace Y'all,

Thursday, July 10, 2008


One of the tools I have re familiarized myself with in coming to my new appointment has been "The thin book of Appreciative Inquiry." It is a great little resource and I am going to need it as we approach the inevitable changes at Mill Plain.

I have joked with the congregation that while I am not trying to change anything right away, the truth is as the new person I will accidentally change something and not even know what I was doing was a change. One recent non church event has reminded me how hard change can be.

In 1980 my family was taking my aunt to the airport who was flying home to San Diego, while waiting with her at the gate (remember when family could do that?) my dad and I notice that DENNIS JOHNSON was also going to be on my aunt's flight. Finally after much encouragement from my father I took a pen and paper from my mother and approached the star of the world champion Seattle Supersonics. I very shyly approached this tall man sitting alone and I said, "Mr. Johnson can I have your autograph?" He took my paper and signed it. I don't recall if he said a word to me but it was SO AWESOME, I got DJ's autograph, just wait until the guys at school hear about this! Of course instantly DJ became my favorite of all the Sonics. Previously my favorite was Gus Williams, the "short" guy on the team.

I remember where I was the previous year when the Sonics won the Championship. Sitting in the living room watching on a little TV with a snowy picture that was the best our antenna could do with the signal 90 miles away in Seattle. It was a great moment in my childhood.

Now the Sonics are gone. Stolen by a thief from Oklahoma City and the commissioner of the NBA. In my worst moments I want some disaster to befall the pair of them. In my best moments I realize that I haven't watched a Sonics game since 1993. (That is great story for another time, but I will say this FRONT ROW TICKETS BABY!)

Change is hard. While my childhood really hasn't been taken away yet, it hurts to have the Seattle Supersonics suddenly disappear in a whirlwind of dust.

I am trying to remember that as the church changes. AI says, "People have more confidence and comfort to journey to the future (the unknown) when they carry forward parts of the past (the known). AND. If we carry parts of the past forward they should be what is best about the past.

So when we talk about changing worship or some committee or something else about the way things have "always" been done I will try to remember the need each of us has to have roots while we grow.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A new day

Today I begin my appointment as the pastor of Mill Plain UMC!

I am excited and nervous about this opportunity. I think the church pretty much feels the same way. The matchmaker has made his match, now the bride and groom get to figure out if they can make it work.

Today I am meeting with the staff and begining to learn what life is like at MPUMC.

I will also be continuing to unpack the boxes of books and begin settling into my new office.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Holy Conferencing

We United Methodists have been tossing around the phrase, "Holy Conferencing" with some regularity lately. What does that mean? One of the definitions for conference at is: "the act of conferring or consulting together; consultation, esp. on an important or serious matter. "

As a clergy the Annual Conference is my church. It is the place where my membership is held. The gathering of my church is very important to me and while I care about the quality of the events and I care about some of the legislation we discuss, primarily the conference is about the gathering of the church an the conversations that take place as we gather.

I have had numerous conversations these past couple of days. Some have been business oriented related to some of my work within the conference such as with the Camping Board of Stewards. Some have been to meet new people. Some have been to process events that are taking place around us. Some are catching up with old friends and acquaintances.

Each of these conversations are opportunities for God's grace and they are Holy. Our conferencing has a particular culture and history and that too is holy.

Today was a day for recognizing clergy who are moving into retirement. One of the ceremonies that took place was "the passing of the mantel." It is from the story of Elijah and Elisha where at the end of his life Elijah passes the "mantel" of God's presence in his ministry on to the younger Elisha. Last year a retiring clergy placed the mantel on Kendra who was being ordained as an Elder that year. As we watched the ceremony I thought how cool would it be if in 30 or so years Kendra is able to pass the mantel on to a young clergy.

There is meaning in the traditions of the church. We have traditions at Annual Conference that mean a great deal to me. Some are formalized some informal. Our Annual Conference has a particular hymn that we call the Bishop's hymn. A bishop in our conference many years ago (I can't remember the exact date . . . 1920s?) had a favorite hymn, its first line is "Beloved, Beloved, we are the children of God." We sing it every year at conference, so far we have sung it twice and I wouldn't be surprised if we sing it again tomorrow to send off Bishop Paup.

Elaine Stanovsky in her sermon for the ordination service tonight spoke well of the traditions of the church and how for all ministers of the church (clergy and lay) the way that we come together brings us home, home in the familiarity of who we are and how we relate with one another. She related this coming home to Annual Conference as a remembrance of our baptism.

We were also reminded today that holy conferencing includes being accountable in our relationships with one another. We were told wisely (again by Elaine, she was 2 for 2 today!) that we are still maturing in how we deal with clergy misconduct. We listened to an account of clergy misconduct that took place 25 years ago and yet still has a major impact on a woman's life. We are still learning what it means to be holy with the victim and with the perpetrator of the offense. Can we be graceful with everyone involved?

It is important to me that holy conference take into account the mistakes that we all make and our reliance upon grace. The Annual Conference is a bit like a small rural town. We live in a fishbowl with one another. If you don't know someone you know someone who knows the person you don't know. There is a very small degree of separation and we are guilty of spreading much gossip about one another at our worst. But we are also able to show great grace with one another and those are holy moments too.

It has been a good couple of days of conferencing and I am looking forward to some holy sleep and relaxation before beginning my new appointment at Mill Plain UMC.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Annual Conference 2008

The Bishop announced at 2:00 that the 135 session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was in session.

We have Brianna with us this year which is a lot of fun. We are on the campus of the University of Idaho in Moscow, ID. As an alum of WSU just 8 miles down the road it is a lot of fun to be out here. Unfortunately the housing and meal situation is not very accommodating. We are sharing a dinning hall with a high school football camp. Poor Brianna kept losing her place in the desert line to the big "smelly" football players. Ugh.

So far all is quiet at Conference. We had introductions, a short report from the General Conference delegation, and an address from the cabinet. The biggest controversy so far seems to be the crowded dinning hall.

I have a report to give for the Discipleship committee tomorrow about my experience at General Conference. I have been looking up legislation to remind myself of some of the things we did. I am pretty nervous about this actually. I have been asked to talk specifically about my obersvation work with the GC Discipleship committee but there may be more this group wants to know. Oh well.

It has been fun to see old friends and introduce Brianna to so people. She is taking it all in pretty well.

P.S. Sorry Al I haven't finished the book yet. I am about half way through.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Buy those women some Listerine

This moving thing is getting to be a real heartache. So while putting off dealing with that I wanted to write a quick not about Baseball. Well its not really about baseball but . . .

One of the headlines in the paper caught my eye today . . . "Lesbian kiss at Seattle ballpark stirs up gay-friendly town."

It seems a couple at the M's game the other day was asked to stop kissing by an usher who had received a complaint. They have stated that they were simply sharing an occasional kiss between munching on garlic fries. Personally I question their judgement. Who wants to kiss someone eating garlic fries? Have you tried those things, they are powerful!

Apparently some mom got all nervous and asked the usher to put a stop to it. The idea seems to have been, "what am I supposed to say to my kids." Is it that hard? Good grief my daughter has known since she was in pre-school, some families have a mom and a dad, some have a mom, some have a dad, some have two dads, some have two moms. It's not that hard to teach a child about diversity. They are pretty accepting of the idea that people are different. Too bad it is hard for the parent to accept diversity.

Frankly, the way the M's have been playing lately I question the judgement of a parent exposing their children to what is happening on the field.

Friday, May 23, 2008


Note: This newsletter article was written for Mill Plain and Longview with two different endings.

We are living in a time where change is the norm and not the exception. Last week I was in the a retail store with my phone asking some questions about my cell phone service, when I showed it to the sales person he reacted like I had pulled out an antique, “Oh, I remember those.” I’m thinking, “Good grief, the phone isn’t even two years old yet.” I haven’t yet begun to think of switching to a newer phone but clearly there will be a day my phone will no longer be able to function as I need it to.

With change being a way of life the question for many is how and when do we choose to make a transition in our life with these changes? Making a transition is a choice. We cannot control the changes around us, but we can control our response (or non-response) to them.

When Jesus was preparing his disciples for the time that he would no longer be with them he made attempts to help them make the transition. He taught them intentionally about the presence of the Holy Spirit. He took time to reflect on what they had achieved together. He reminded each of them of their value to the continued ministry and he gave thanks to God for their faith. Soon the disciples are confronted not only with the life of Jesus but with his death and his resurrection as well! The disciple’s choice is how are we going to respond, what will be different in our life because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Pastoral changes are hard. Each situation is unique, no two situations are the same. In each change that is made we have a choice of how to respond and the people around us will be responding in a variety of ways. Some are grieving what is being lost, others are looking forward to what will be gained. Making a healthy pastoral transition takes into account both the grief and the anticipation of the clergy and the congregation. In order to receive one another well we also need to do our best to say goodbye well.

I have arranged for a couple of Sunday’s off between Longview and Mill Plain (my last Sunday at LUMC is June 15) in order for me to make as healthy of a transition as I can. Two weeks is still a short time to consider all the emotions of saying goodbye and preparing to say hello. Yet, I intend to do my best to spend that time resting and considering the possibilities of the future with Mill Plain UMC. I will also be giving thanks in prayer for the people of Longview UMC.

Longview UMC ending
So Thank You Longview United Methodist Church. Thank you, for receiving me with love, for being graceful when I made a mistake, for having the courage to say what you believe, for caring for my family and helping my daughter to grow in her faith, for the ways that you care for and love one another, for your passion for justice, for giving your time and energy so others would be welcome, for sometimes setting aside your desires to make room for guests, for standing up as a beacon of diversity in this community, for supporting others as they become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Mill Plain UMC ending
I am thankful for the opportunity, that all being well, I will soon be the pastor of Mill Plain UMC. I am thankful for Brian’s three years of leadership and service for the Church. I am thankful for Steve Lewis being available to preach so often in this interim period. I am thankful for all the staff, especially Ev, Debbie and Jeff for their ministry. I am thankful for all the work going on behind the scenes to prepare for my arrival. How will you give thanks for what was and prepare for what will be?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Five Years at LUMC

The following is an article that I hope will be published in "The Daily News" on Sunday

Acceptance of Diversity is a value held by many people. This past December churches that normally have difficulty agreeing about many things rallied around the acceptance of racial and ethnic diversity as we placed a large add in the Daily News with thousands of signatures. We joined with the young and old, rich and poor, powerful and weak as we marched on a cold December Sunday to announce to the community that hatred and racism were unwelcome in our community. We posted signs in the windows of our homes and cars that declared “we embrace diversity.”

Yet, embracing diversity takes more than a sign and a parade. We have a very human desire (need?) to congregate with others like us. We create organizations, clubs and even churches so that people like us can meet together. We might proclaim “everyone is welcome” or “come as you are” but we often hope that those who are different will conform to the majority. Sometimes we resort to creating fear about those who are different. As a youth and young adult growing up in Southwest Washington I was taught through jokes and rumors to be afraid of Gay people. I thank God that I did not submit to that fear.

Through my faith in Jesus Christ I understand that God loves all people. In my United Methodist denomination we have struggled with the issues of slavery, racism and sexism. Over time we have accepted that people of race are equal in God’s eyes, and that women have every right to equality with men in home, work and the church. As a denomination we are still trying to understand diversity as it pertains to acceptance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. I am thankful for churches such as Longview United Methodist Church where we are learning to follow Christ without fear. We believe that God is calling us to responsible, loving relationships and we reject the exploitation of sex in our society. We believe the gender of who you love is less important than the quality of your love.

Today, May 18, 2008 is the fifth anniversary of Longview United Methodist Church opening its doors to all people. In those five years the ministry of our church has been blessed with spiritual and numerical growth. We have celebrated the baptisms of those who discovered God’s love and forgiveness. We have welcomed others who had been told not to come back by other churches. We have witnessed the joy of couples making a commitment to a life long monogamous relationship with one another.

Our greater Cowlitz County community is diverse. We have people of many nations, languages, races, cultures and sexual orientations. As we grow to understand the diversity around us, I believe we will grow in our understanding of God’s universal love. I hope that you will consider the opportunity to embrace the full diversity in our community not only in regards to race but also in regards to those neighbors of ours who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

If you have the opportunity we would be very happy to welcome you to our Sunday morning worship at 10:00, or for this evening’s special concert by the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus at 6:00.
Grace and Peace, Rev. Bruce Smith

Thursday, May 08, 2008


I visited Adam Hamilton's blog yesterday.

I really respect Adam and although we do not really know each other I feel like he is someone who I could have a conversation with and not feel condemned. However, it was terribly frustrating to read the comments on his blog. Those anonymous commentators and their quick judgements!

Basically two commentators wanted to know how the church could condone "those sinners" and questioned the UMC's understanding of discipleship.

I resisted the urge to reply only because I knew I was too steamed up to be helpful. So while I helped with making dinner in the kitchen I began to wonder what happened to STRE? The Wesleyan Quadrilateral that has been taught for nearly 40 years in the United Methodist Church?

What has happened to reading Scripture with our Tradition, Reason and Experience? Albert Outler did the church a great service when he wrote about the "Wesleyan Quadrilateral." Yet, many of my conservative friends simply want to read Scripture, seemingly to me, in a vacuum. Scripture has always been read in a particular context. In the western world of 2008 our understanding of homosexuality is based on good scientific and psychological research. I know faithful Christian people who give testimony to their religious Experience as GLBT people. Why is it harmful to read scripture the same way Methodists have been reading it for nearly 300 years?

How long, how long must we sing this song?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hope for the future

This is the last post to be labeled "General Conference 2008." I will of course be blogging about the Upcoming Jurisdictional Conference. Can jurisdictional conference be about more than episcopal elections? I believe it is time for the west to engage with all the other jurisdictions and the international regional conferences in a dialogue around what it means to be the United Methodist Church. The west has been under attack and it is time for us to unite with others to stop the attacks.

I have hope that as a new generation of leadership rises and the current generation of leaders matures the bitterness of past battles will fade so that we can work through our differences in a new way. It appears to me that some people from the far conservative wing of the church are acting out of fear. Their fear has led them to some questionable tactics that will not work. I hope they can grow out of their fear and engage in mutual dialogue. Those in the South East working out of fear are abusing statistics in attempts to gain power and control. (There were two attempts to reduce the Western Jurisdiction to 2 or 3 bishops instead of our current 6 brought to you by our good friends of the IRD and "Good New.")

I have hope that the "left" can engage with the middle in new ways. The moment of witness on Thursday was a powerful moment where the church recognized its brokenness and in recognizing that which has broken us I believe we can begin the healing.

I have hope that the UMC will be a growing vibrant church for the next generation.

From Thursday May 2

Note to reader. This was published on the conference blog but I forgot to post it here at my blog. If you haven't checked out the conference site yet you should.

After finishing Wednesday’s blog post at 2:00 A.M. (Thursday technically I suppose) I slept for 3 hours and got up for what I knew would be another important morning.

The western jurisdiction meeting went well and we had the opportunity to meet Angela Brown from the Cal-Nevada A.C. who we had helped elect to the Jurisdictional Council.
As I sit here I can’t recall what the morning legislation was. Oh yeah, it was around the report on the world wide church which for now is simply changing the language of the international “Central” conferences to “Regional.” There was some argument about the possibility of the US becoming a regional conference and that will be part of a larger study in the next quadrennium.

There was a beautiful moment of witness on the brokenness of our church around the issue of homosexuality. The Bishops participated in a variety of ways which was very impressive. Basically about 200 volunteers from around the country came dressed in black and formed a cross in the aisles. At the center communion table it was shrouded in black and we were invited to lay a veil on the alter for the brokenness of the church. It is clear now from the 45-55 vote and the participation from the delegates that this is no longer a small minority vs. the majority, we are a church of many minds broken over one issue and YET also one church together in hope. I really believe that.

We are ONE diverse church. I believe God’s call for us is to learn how to be in relationship while we disagree. That unity is well displayed in our ability to come together in mission. Perhaps that is why the whole basketball thing is so important. It is something we can focus on and agree about together. Saving lives for the here and now is a value of our discipleship in following Jesus Christ.

Today will have more legislation and busy-ness. But it is also a time of reflection on a week filled with many moments of basic human frailty and also many moments of humanity experiencing the the living God. Pray for one more day of Holy Conferencing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

And . . . That's a wrap

The General Conference Session of 2008 concluded its business at 11:14 local time. Followed by a sermon from Bishop Palmer. Frankly it took a while to start listening as I was ready to simply get back to the hotel.

So what happened today?

The committee on the General Conference Agenda made a motion that was easily carried that the 2012 session have no business scheduled on the Sunday of its meeting! Yippee.

The budget passed easily.

The close votes of the day were with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. (An agency the United Methodist Church began in 1972) The RCRC is getting hammered by the far right with many half truths and just plain lies. (Where is all this fear and hatred coming from?) The UMC has voted to continue its support and affiliation with the RCRC but by a very narrow margin.

Some surprising good news of the day. One of our delegation noticed that on a consent calendar item the UMC has made the following statement (altering Paragraph 161 A for those following in their program) “The family: We believe the family to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect and fidelity. We affirm the importance of loving parentsfor all children. We also understand the family as encompassing a wider range of options than that of the two-generational unit of parents and children (the nuclear family) We affirm shared responsibility for parenting where there are two parentsand encourage social, economic, and religious efforts to maintain and strengthen relationships within families in order that every member may be assisted toward complete personhood.”

This was a hard day for the “IRD” a far right conservative group with political motivations to change the church. The items they brought to the General Conference were generally defeated by good margins.

I sat on the floor for the closing speed legislation session. It was at first frustrating as people would go the the microphone on an issue that wasn’t going to be a close vote. Eventually everyone stayed seated and in the final hour we passed 30 items.

I think I will do one more final thoughts post before signing off. Presently it is 2:00 A.M. and I still haven’t packed!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Holy Moments

What a day. I don't know where to begin.

The day began innocently enough. The Western Jurisdiction meeting was light and hopeful with understanding that not all the votes would go the way most western delegates would prefer.

Mary and I shared a fun moment running to Starbucks to get the delegation on the floor their supply of coffee for the day. It seemed like an appropriate Northwest moment.

We learned that the "Global Ministries Committee" was still meeting and as of the morning there were still 120 "calendar items" to go. On average this meant we would have ten minutes for each item.

After an Africa University presentation it was time to get started with Church and Society II at 10:55 A.M.

We began with a proposed new Social Creed. It was presented as a litany and it works well that way. Eventually after much debate instead of replacing the social creed we added the litany to be alongside the creed. It should be a powerful worship document. This passed at 11:46 A.M.

There were several petitions going fairly quickly then we came to #1195 making a statement opposing homophobia and heterosexism. FIRST, let me tell you that the body approved the statement. So the UMC is NOT in favor of homophobia. However, one of the most painful moments of the day occurred in the debate when one of the African delegates was translated to have said "It is too bad the United Methodist Church is advocating things that come from the devil." This was a terribly painful moment for many. There is obviously a huge cultural divide in the United Methodist Church presently and we MUST do something about our relationship with those in the central (international) churches.

We then adjourn for lunch.

Coming back from lunch there was a silent demonstration as we entered the convention center with people forming lines to be a witness as we entered. I signed "Thank You" to many of them as I entered.

After lunch I began to take my seat at the visitors section when David comes to me with the pass for reserves and he hands it to me. I said, "Really?" I was so honored for David to give me his seat for this important afternoon. (It is also worth noting that Elaine gave her seat to Sharon as well.)

We started with what I was the proposal that I published here last night. It WOULD have replaced the phrase "incompatible with Christian teaching" in paragraph 161 (but that phrase IS also found also in paragraph 340.)

Page # 2266, Item #1186, Petition# 80449, Page #324 in the ADCA. (Yes it takes us all those numbers to work out what is before us.!) This begins at 2:45

Some notable events from the debate. People from Texas speak FOR inclusion! 3:25 and amendment failed that made me begin to think that we might actually replace paragraph 161. Then another attempt to amend fails 60 - 40. Finally at 3:45 we are voting on all that is before us. I need to explain that there was also a "Minority Report." In the interest of avoiding a long discussion about General Conference Parliamentary procedure let us just say that this was an alternate to the statement I reported to you dear readers yesterday and it retains the damaging language. The Minority Report is what eventually passed by a margin of 55% to 45%.

This is a historically narrow result. Those who are working for inclusion gained SO MUCH! In order to achieve this result many votes for inclusion had to come from the southern conferences. Obviously it was a very emotional time. Then we had a life memory holy moment.

Immediately following the vote the chair was trying to get us to a 20 minute recess. However, in order to do that he had to have a report for the judicial council, which was at least 4 pages of text that the secretary of the conference had to read out loud. As I was listening to this Mary sends me a text, "look behind you." Behind us the RMN folks in the visitor sections were all standing in witness. Then others on the floor began to stand. Slowly word got to the front and according to one person on the podium 45% of the floor was standing and 80% of the gallery. As more began to stand from the back came music in the form of "Jesus loves me . . ." A thousand people begin singing in witness, all while the poor secretary is still droning out the judicial council report. I will never forget that moment. It was a powerful witness.

So while the vote did not go the way many of us might have hoped, change is coming.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pray for Holy Conferencing

Well, Wednesday could be a big day.

It is likely that the Church and Society II committee will present their report on Human Sexuality. There are two reports, one from the committee and a minority report. This will be tense. The sub-committee and the full committee felt good about their work and as I said before it feels like a step forward. I have no idea if it will pass on the floor but I wanted to share it with y'all.

The petition would amend Paragraph 161 G in the 2004 Book of Discipline to read as follows.

161 G Human Sexuality. We recognize that sexuality is God's good gift to all person. We believe person may be fully human only when that gift is acknowledged and affirmed by themselves, the church, and society. we call all persons to the disciplined, responsible fulfillment of themselves, others and society in the stewardship of this gift. We also recognize our limited understanding of this complex gift and encourage the medical, theological, and social science disciplines to combine in a determined effort to understand human sexuality more completely. United Methodists, along with other Christians, have struggled to find principles for applying traditional teachings to contemporary understandings of human sexuality. We recognize that sexuality is part of the larger human mystery, to be received and acknowledged in grateful responsibility. We reject all sexual expressions that damage or destroy the humanity God has given us. we deplore all forms of the commercialization and exploitation of sexual relations, with their consequent cheapening and degradation of human personality. We call for strict global enforcement of laws prohibiting the sexual exploitation or use of children by adults and encourage efforts to hold perpetrators legally and financially responsible. We call for adequate protection, guidance, and counseling for children thus abused. we believe that the Church family should support all families in providing age-appropriate education regarding sexuality to children, youth, and adults. We challenge all members of our community of faith to commitment, integrity and fidelity in their sexual relationships. We know that all are God's children and of sacred worth. Yet we have been, and remain, divided regarding homosexual expressions of human sexuality. Faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness. We continue to reason and pray together with faith and hope that the Holy Spirit will soon bring reconciliation to our community of faith. The fire in our disagreements points to a deeper human mystery than we knew. We believe that the Spirit has brought our collective conscience to acknowledge this mystery more honestly, and to make our claims with greater humanity before God and our neighbors. we therefore ask the Church, United Methodist and others, and the world, to refrain from judgement regarding homosexual persons and practices until the Spirit leads us to new insight. In the meantime, let us seek to welcome, know, forgive, and love one another as Christ has accepted us, that God may be glorified through everything in our lives.

This does not replace the statement "Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching" in paragraph 304 that has to do with ordination. I believe the committee has kept that phrase. Of course this is a bit ironic where in this statement we acknowledge our lack of understand and in another we condemn.

Tonight and this morning I simply ask that you pray for the Conference and all that will be before us. We do now know what will happen but we believe in a "Future with Hope."

Peace Y'all

Sleep, who needs sleep?

The General Conference experience is a wild ride.

Most delegates again had a night of 4-5 hours of sleep. We ended the plenary session around 11:20. Then two committees went until about 12:45 still trying to finish their work. Global Ministries is taking the longest amount of time. The western jurisdiction then has a 7:00 meeting that most make an attempt to attend.

I am unsure how "holy" the conferencing will be as this sleep deprivation continues.

I have been debating in my mind whether I should go back and correct errors in my previous posting. I am leaning against it as the errors are also part of the General Conference experience. The learning curve is very high. I have been full of questions for whoever is sitting near me:Who is that, why did that just happen, when will this be coming up etc. etc. I was reassured nicely by Craig when he said, "That's OK no one can keep up with all of this stuff." If Craig can't no one can.

As I am typing this, Bishop Swenson is presiding with Bishop Talbert and Bishop Tuell supporting her. A great representation of leadership that has served the PNW in a variety of ways. Sitting next to me is Sharon who came into the PNW in the same year that I attended my first Annual Conference as a page while Bishop Talbert was our resident Bishop. I love all these United Methodist connections!

Just after lunch I bumped into a friend from my seminary days. It was great to see her. She is now a D.S. in Oklahoma! Franke is so good.

WOW, David wants me on the floor! Gotta Go.

So . . . When I got to the floor there was a debate about the United Methodist Mission. It was in danger of being added onto to the point of meaninglessness. In the end we said that "The Mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples for the transformation of the world."

My first opportunity to use the voting machine . . . I vote to add Bermuda to the NE Jurisdiction!

We passed a resolution to add a minimum of 100 delegates to the Jurisdictional conference. This will increase the number for the Western Jurisdiction by nearly 20. I believe this takes effect in 2012.

We had a fantastic time with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf from Liberia. She called us to address the world needs around the issues of poverty. It was an especially powerful witness as she is a United Methodist lay person and was educated in a United Methodist high school in Africa.

I had a fun dinner with a group of guys with RMN ties. One was from a large downtown church in Atlanta that he described as a "gay" church, but hasn't joined the RMN. It was great to talk with a SE Jurisdiction person about the issues of inclusion.

After dinner the vote on the Episcopacy Study was brought to the floor agian. After much confusion (and much is still fuzzy to me) we voted to reduce the number of Bishops in each Jurisdiction (except the SE) by one. I believe this takes effect September 1, 2012. So that should add some fun to Jurisdictional conference.

I might actually get to bed by 10:oo tonight! Yippee!!!

Some events from yesterday

Hey Y'all,

Just wanted to insert a few of the other significant items that passed the floor.

We are now in full communion with the ELCA. Which, until a few years ago I would have assumed we already were. So now Lutherans and United Methodist fully recognize each others orders and sacramental authority.

We are going to be "revising" the hymnal. This will end up being a new hymnal to be presented to the General Conference in 2012 and published around 2013.

Bishops can now retire at age 68 instead of 66.

We are having some trouble with the PNW blog, well at least I am having trouble logging in so that I can post over there.

Some things I am fuzzy on (well almost everything now that I have had yet another day of 4 hours sleep.)

I believe we have delayed the change to regional conferences and established a task force to come with a more comprehensive proposal in 2012.

I believe we have established that we are sticking with the same number of bishops, so we will be voting for 2 at Jurisdictional this year.

Peace Y'all

Monday, April 28, 2008


It is Day 6 isn’t it?
Anyway a time-line of the day so far:
5;45 Here we go again
6;40 Where’s Nico? Oh wait he’s sitting right behind me. What? All the young adults are ready to go?
7:00 Western Jurisdiction meeting
7:02 6 committees have finished their work. Finance and Administration spent 3.5 hours on a discussion about pensions. Committee on Higher Education voted for minimum time of probationary relationship toward full clergy membership to be 2 years instead of the current 3. There is more work coming on the orders. Superintendency rejected a reduction of bishops (If it passes the floor this is very important for large geographical areas like the PNW.) Also it is being recommended to raise the episcopal retirement age to 68 instead of the current 66.
7:23 We talked about the Judicial Council slate
8:00 Worship “Building Hope.”
9:05 call to order
9:11 Committee on Agenda and Calendar reports that there are 6 committees still meeting. Three will meet during lunch, two at dinner and Church and Society II will meet in the afternoon until they have finished.
9:30 Katrina Report. We are reminded that help is still needed. In a moving testimony one pastor recalled that when he came to the remains of his church building the hymnbook he say was open to page 707 “The Hymn of Promise.” He said, “I knew there would continue to be a church here.”
9:45 Election process begins. The floor spends a half hour working out issues with the electronic voting devices. Once again to test the system they vote for their favorite apostle. John is elected on the first ballot.
10:15 Voting begins
10:22 Both Lay members of the Judicial Council are elected
10:40 Three clergy members are elected completing a sweep for the alternate slate to the “Good News”, “IRD”, “Confessing Movement” slate.
10:40 I begin writing a blog about the elections
11:10 More plenary session fun, motions, amendments, defeating amendments.
12:05 It takes 35 minutes on ONE MOTION!
12:10 Report of the 60th Anniversary of “The Advance.” This is money donated for particular designated funds around the world.
12:30 Lunch Break Begins, Where is David?
1:00 David tells me about $25 robes at Cokesbury. I buy one for a mission effort.
1:30 Still in the Cokesbury store, I decide today is the dayto buy gifts
1:50 I visit the Philippine delegation. Meet an associate director of Church and Society and have a good conversation.
2:30Plenary is begining again.
4:00 Time to write a blog.
5:00 Time to get ready to go to the Bishop's dinner.
5:30 Hey Jenny, do you know where the Bishop's dinner is?

Peace Y’all,

Judicial Council Elections

In a stunningly quick election the Judicial Council has been elected.
I am happy to report that you cannot buy an election at General Conference! None of the “Good News” endorsed candidates were elected.
I failed to mention yesterday that the “moderates” and “liberals” did eventually get a slate and they have all been elected.
Angela Brown for (Cal Pac? Cal Nevada?) was the first lay elected! Rubeun Reyes from the Philippines was second.
3 Clergy have also been elected. Kathi Austin Mahle, Belton Joyner, William Lawrence were elected.
It only took 3 elctions to get the clergy elected. After the many ballots for General Conference delegates at Annual Conference I was very surprised at how quickly this went.
I am very excited about this news. The “Good News” group can buy all the phones they want, they can’t buy and election!
More later . . .
Peace Y’all,

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Quick Sunday Check In

Well, I have been wondering the halls this afternoon trying to learn what I can.
The most important piece of news that I have is that Church and Society II passed a statement that according to a couple of discussions I have had, basically says, “we agree to disagree.” I haven’t seen the statement yet so I don’t know the exact wording or what it replaces. This is a step forward, not a big one, but a step. Now lets see what the floor does with it.
The leather chairs in the hall must be pretty comfortable, one of our delegates has been asleep in one for the past hour!
I had an opportunity to say hello to Bishop Huie. She was my District Superintendent while I was on my internship in San Angelo. She recognized me but didn’t know from when or where, but I thought that was cool. It was nice to talk with her again. She is really happy with what is happening in Houston.
Looks like both Church and Society committees will be going late. I am going to try to get a full nights sleep so I am well rested for the next week.
Peace Y’all,

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Random thoughts Day 4

Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be nice, There is no such thing as a free lunch, laughter is a universal language, Robert Rules, Name Rank and Serial number, Roam if you want to, Fashion accessories of GC2008, Personal Day.

OK, here is my promised rant regarding the Judicial Council (here after called JC) process. About two weeks before General Conference I began receiving mailing for JC candidates. I had a hunch there were from “conservatives” but the mailings were pretty vague and said things about the candidates. Then a few days before GC I received a very nice looking two page full color brochure advocating for a slate of JC candidates and the brochure made it clear that this was endorsed the “Good News” group.

The process for Judicial Council is essentially this. The bishops bring a list of nominations to the floor. Then the floor is invited to add names to the list. Then 48 hours later voting begins (Monday for this year.) You can see the advantage of having and advanced slate to advocate for. Name familiarity is important in elections and getting the names out early seems like a good idea.
Well, upon arrival to GC2008 the western jurisdiction and other moderate to liberal groups had as of yet to identify their “slate.” This is totally my humble opinion but sometimes us liberals are too dang inclusive for our own good. We want everyone to have an opportunity. So we are reluctant to name our favorites in the fear we might hurt someone’s feelings. Meanwhile the organized fundamentalist group is kicking our butt!

OK That was the first rant. rant number two. When I was in college one of my history professor’s loved to use the phrase, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” (He was a United Methodist layman too by the way.) Anyway, I mentioned before the controversy of the cell phones that were handed out to 150 central conference delegates. I understand they have been put in an awkward position. On one hand they have simply accepted a free gift like others of us have accepted free lunches, dinners, pedometers, water bottles, Hymnals etc. However, if the Good News group wanted to simply offer the gifts with no strings attached they certainly wouldn’t have suggested who the delegates should support for Judicial Council and they could have considered giving the gifts anonymously! (Hmmm, seems like the gospel says something about giving alms in secret . . .) I hope this one backfires on the Good News group! This obvious attempt to buy votes is just not on.

During the lunch break I sat in with David Valera on a gathering of the Filipino delegations. (Did David tell me there are 21 Annual Conferences in the Philippines? I think he did!) It was a great gathering to be a part of as they were full of laughter although I couldn’t understand most of the conversation, it seemed like a family gathering. I could also see that David has a good relationship with them. I hope that I get an opportunity in the next couple of years to go and experience the Philippines for myself.

OMG, I have been very surprised at the lack of expertise the committee chairs have shown regarding basic parliamentary procedure. One committee I was observing was in total shambles as they spent an HOUR discussing how to process the work of the sub-committee. I was going crazy in the visitor area. Eventually a parliamentarian was called, then the problem was magnified in that the chair and vice chair didn’t know how to explain the mess the committe was in. It was excruciating! I expect these sort of moments at Annual Conference but GENERAL Conference! We have over 100 Bishops hanging around. Can’t we find 13 retired bishops to sit in on the committee meetings to act as parliamentarians? When the GC plenary is in session the presiding Bishop always has two others sitting behind her or him and often they discuss what the best ruling is for the chair.

I also wanted to mention one of the interesting social aspects of General Conference. There is a clear hierarchy. Delegates have a red background on their name-tags, reserve delegates have brown, some group has green (marshals and pages?) visitors have white, I think bishops are purple but they don’t seem to wear their name-tags much (they have those cool episcopal lapel pins after all.) And there is always this fun experience when meeting someone and they stare at your name badge to learn your ranking and/or where you are from. Oh, a reserve from the PNW, you can almost see the ranking going on in the delegate’s mind.

The advantage of being a second class General Conference citizen is that you are free to observe any committee at any time. So today instead of staying with one I went to three. The disadvantage is that I didn’t get to learn many specifics (although, I can report that the sexuality committee is really dedicated to their agreement to disagree, which led to a crushing defeat of some of the most scary exclusive language petitions. ) It was good to observe more of the General Conference in action.

There are fashion statements to be made at General Conference. Actually, I have been surprised at how few suits there are. And today the Kansas delegates were all wearing Kansas Jayhawk NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion 2008 T-Shirts. Apparently Bishop Jones is a big fan and he also was wearing a T-Shirt. They have challenged the delegates of North Carolina, Cal Pac and Tennessee to beat their donations to the Nothing but Nets campaign! HOWEVER, the real fashion accessory for General Conference is what I call “The Wheelie Bag” they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors but they all have one thing in common. They are a pain to wheel through the crowded halls of General Conference. I went and bought a large computer bag with wheels and a handle to carry the many books and my computer around the conference. Apparently every other delegate had the same idea. Perhaps Marie should get video of all of us wheeling our bags around the corridors.

Well, Tonight I am not setting the alarm and I am sleeping in!!! I then intend to go to church at my friend Wes’ church. Wes and I were buddies at seminary and we went to England at the same time. So I am really looking forward to seeing him.

Peace Y’all

I am a voting delegate!

Mary and I were both invited to sit on the floor today! I really wanted to play it all cool, no big deal, but I couldn’t. Mary and I were giddy as we walked onto the floor of the General Conference. It takes two delegates to step aside for each of us so we owe our thanks to Jin Ming, Craig, Gail and Peter for giving us a few hours on the floor. Here is a time-line of the day so far.

5:45 Oh God, its already time to get up again.

6:30 Free breakfast in the hotel. Clint discovers Texas shaped waffles.

6:45 Hurry up kids its time to get in the car, where is Nico?

7:00 Western Jurisdictional meeting. Bishop Paup talks about some issues regarding GBGM and the “Nothing but Nets” campaign. There is some discussion about the “Nothing but Nets” and some inter-agency issues. UMComm had a major role in the campaign and some feel that it belongs in GBGM. (I don’t care who does it, I’m just thankful for the success of the campaign so far.)

7:10 We hear reports from the delegates and observers from the committees. This is a confusing time as all the committees are in or have just finished sub-committee work, and while a sub-committee may have taken a particular action it is impossible to predict what the full committee or the floor will do with that action.

Having said that: Some of the big things going on are:

1) Financing Bishops. There was a proposal to have Jurisdictions pay for Bishops. Presently this is paid from General Conference apportionments. The west would be very much hurt by this as at present giving we only pay for what one delegate said was 3.2 bishops. That would be a reduction of 2.8 of our present episcopal leadership.
2) There was a wholesale rejection of petitions placing the pastor as the sole authority for church membership. This is in response to petitions regarding a judicial council decision upholding a pastor’s decision to refuse a man membership on the basis that he was a gay man. I believe that this means that the sub committee is upholding that the church council in consultation with the pastor makes decisions about membership. Thus rejecting the Judicial Council’s ruling.
3) The sexuality sub committee has a compromise proposal that is a very small baby step toward inclusion, Mary has been observing them perhaps she will blog about it soon. As I understand it, the sub committee has created a statement that we agree to disagree, which oddly enough is a small step forward. In 2004 a similar petition was made and rejected by committee, I believe. So we still have a ways to go with that one.

7:45 Discussion about judicial council nominees. (Perhaps I will write another post to rant about this later.)

7:55 I learn that the “Good News” caucus gave cell phones to central conference delegates, primarily those from Africa. What? OMG! Rumor has it that those phones were used yesterday to inform those delegates who to support for the Judicial Council. (Yet another possible rant for later.)

8:15 worship begins with a youth drama group called “The Strangely Warmed Players.” (A reference to John Wesley’s statement that his heart was strangely warmed and he knew that he was a loved child of God.) They brought a comical and yet clear message for the church to be in mission.

The sermon from Bishop Hutchinson felt like an old tyme revival. It was great and nearly brought me to tears. It was a very moving testimony challenging us to not only have the form of religion but also the power. (A good Wesleyan reference.) We were encouraged to “Let Jesus and the Holy Spirit loose” in ourselves and our churches.

9:15 Report from the committee of Agenda. I Vote against the agenda for tomorrow! I am kind of grumpy about the agenda of a full working day on Sunday for the General Conference.

9:25 We are presented with the consent calendar items thus far to come from committee. Two of them are a bit troubling. One would change the language in paragraph 164 in the Book of Discipline deleting the sentence “Though coercion, violence, and war are presently the ultimate sanctions in international relations, we reject them as incompatible with the gospel and spirit of Christ.” In its place is a longer statement that doesn’t do much for me. The elimination of the word “incompatible” may be significant. As that word is part of the infamous “incompatible with Christian Teaching” phrase in regards to homosexuality.

On a positive note there is a consent calendar item that will require all General church agencies to “work with Annual Conferences and United Methodist Camps and Retreat Centers to develop recommendations and resources that would guide the United Methodist Church in reducing our carbon dioxide impact.” Further “The report to the 2012 General Conference should; create a plan for evaluating the current status of contributions to global warming throughout the United Methodist connection by churches, institutions and staff; create specific recommendations for reduction of contributions to global warming such as: solar panels or other renewable energies, meetings by conference call rather than driving, insulating buildings etc. Develop an ecumenical effort to support changes which reduce global warming.

9:37 Rural Life celebration.

I take this time to read that “Hero” report which is from the GCSRW and GCORR. These two groups monitor participation in all General Conference proceedings in regards to diversity of gender and race. The report proclaims that this is the most diverse General Conference in history. 56% of Legislative committee officers are Female! 36% of all Legislative committee officers are African American, 8% are Central Conference (international) delegates.

10:40 We take a break. Clint and I arrange for another BBQ exploration in Ft. Worth.

11:00 The presiding Bishop tries to bring us back to order. Mary and I are the only PNW delegates at our chairs on time.

11:02 A video begins reminding us of the difficulties for retired clergy in the Central Conferences. (We must do more to support our international clergy!)

11:17 Motion for 2012 to have an Ethics Committee. My brain gets lost in the wording. I vote because Amory did, later I find out we voted to refer. This comes from the Cell Phone issue.

11:21 A report from from the Episcopacy Study.

11:40 A report from the Study committee on the relationship between the UMC and the Autonomous Methodist Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. Bishop Galvan is part of the presentation.

12:15 We recess and Mary and I hand in our passes for the floor. :(

Friday, April 25, 2008

An "Early" Night

Our "First Elected" Clergy relaxes with one of the free massage chairs. She was so relaxed she agreed to give me time on the floor tomorrow!

I don't anticipate that there will be anything to vote about tomorrow it is very considerate of Jin Ming and Craig to give me an opportunity to be on the floor and I am looking forward to participating in worship from the floor. Our delegation is seated very close to the front and it must be a good view!

The only issue for the floor today was nominations for Judicial Council and University Senate. Those names will be available for the delegates for 48 hours with voting for those influential groups on Monday. That will be something I will try to blog about with more information in the next couple of days.
I imagine the Western Jurisdiction meeting in the morning will have a lot to add for the candidates the west will support. The "DCA" (Daily Christian Advocate, the daily publication of the General Conference with reports and eventually legislation from the committees) will have profiles of each of the Judicial nominees.

Any questions? Send an e-mail or write a comment.

Peace Y'all


Quick notes on the day.

Trying to sleep during worship. Fun and games with Robert's rules. Mmmmm mudbugs. Hymnal?

I'm tired. Two nights with 4 hours of sleep. I tried to catch up with some sleep during the sermon in morning worship. I know I shouldn't admit it but there it is the horrible truth. It didn't work, but I tried.

We arrived to the committee to discover they had put the "bar" back up so that the whole committee could work on petitions that would effect the budget. There was the usual parliamentary confusion that happens when church committees get together whether it is the PNW Annual Conference. All too boring to go into here but I found amusement with the process. I know I have an illness, I enjoy the machinations of parliamentary procedure.

I had lunch at a fun "Cajun Cafe" called "Razzoos." Apparently you are a "Razzoo" if:
  • You have more bowlin, hotrod or karate trophies than books.
  • You have more than 10 garage sales a year.
  • You miss all weddings, kids recitals and funerals because "Its Dove season."
  • You think a styrofoam cooler is personal luggage.
  • You know more than 5 NASCAR driver or car sponsor names.

I had the "Cajun Etoufee" (et-two-fay) with "mudbugs" (crawfish.) Mmmm cajun cooking, its been a while since I have had crawfish and mmmm it was good.

I had my first experience of "observer discrimination." The sub committee was given a gift from the publishing house, General Conference commemorative Hymnals. I was kind of bummed about that. Then of course the sub committee began a discussion about the "Hymnal Revision Committee."

I came to the discussion on the fence about the need for a new hymnal. I haven't encouraged my church to purchase the "Faith We Sing" book because we were able to use the money saved from buying those to put up video projection instead. However, the discussion in subcommittee has turned me in favor of a new hymnal. Some key points that were raised:

  • 96% of United Methodist Churches use the current hymnbook in worship. (While many churches are using video projection to some degree the hymnbook is still a vital resource for ministry.)
  • The hymnal is a uniting resource for the United Methodist Church
  • A new hymnal would represent a diversity of music but surely not be the only music resource for local churches.
  • The hymnal is more than a music book, it is a worship resource as well.

Those are some of the arguments that won me over. I know, it didn't take much. I wish I could collect my thoughts better but I'm tired. The sub committee seems fairly diverse and many of my questions were asked by others and I have been satisfied by the responses I have received. The publishing house seems plenty aware of the needs for multi media and the likely hood that they will not sell as many of this hymnbook as they have with the last one.

Time for dinner, I wonder if Clint is up for some Texas BBQ?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thank God for Blue Bell

Spent some time after committee meeting today with the young adults. All our committees got out early (10:00 P.M.) so after returning to the hotel we made an ice cream run and I knew exactly what I had to have, “Blue Bell, brown rim, natural vanilla bean.” We took an adventure to find a Wal Mart that was open (I know, I know but it was the only grocery store we could get to at 10:40 at night, and I had a real craving for that ice cream! I’m sure God will understand, Its Blue Bell!) Mmmm, Blue Bell. Seriously, it is the best thing about Texas. If you haven’t had Blue Bell you just don’t know. Blue Bell makes everything better.

Oh ya, General Conference stuff.

I am observing the “Ordinal and Hymnal sub committee.” It should be a fairly painless group. The sub committee is about 20 people with about 5 or 6 observers. I did share a funny moment when I sat at a group that I thought was the Hymnal subcommitee (turns out it was another sub commitee) and a women sits down next to me and says “Hello Bruce Smith” and I look at her for a minitue and say “well hello Jenny!” So I have found one of our PNW related people. Jenny as many of you know, helped run the Indianola campaign a few years ago in our annual conference and is currently living in New York state.

I also met a man my age from the NW Texas Annual Conference. We sat next to each other and talked about sports and our families. I was impressed that he knew who Drew Bledsoe was. He is a big college football fan. We shared photos of our children and it was fun to connect with someone from Texas. He shared that he is an Asbury grad and I know that probably means we have some serious theological differences but frankly the primary thing for me right now was to connect with another person. We can disagree about theology later. It is good to be making some connections with people.

OK so now it is 12:53 and I am falling asleep at the computer. Western Delegation meets at 7:00 A.M. again and then its off to the usual plenary worship, committees etc, etc.
Peace Y’all

Random Thoughts

Just finished dinner. I attended a SMU Perkins School of Theology social. Free food, awkward social interactions. I ended up sitting next to a guy from Nebraska that seemed to be on his own as well. I was hoping to bump into someone I knew, but there wasn't anyone. It was always odd to be a person from the west at Perkins. The vast majority of Perkins people are from the South Central Jurisdiction and most of them are from Texas. They have all sorts of established networks and don't really seem to know how to talk with someone that is out of their networking zone. No one really cares who I am, I will never be their D.S. Well, it was free food.

Other random notes about General Conference . . .

Our first committee meeting was excruciatingly long and tedious. It took over an hour to elect a chair, vice chair and secretary!!! The process was interesting in an observer sociological point of view. After electing two men as chair and vice chair three women were nominated for secretary. Ah, gender roles gotta love them! Can't wait until we start debating the hymnal and fun things like that.

The weather has cooled off. Its only 75 and muggy. Although ,many of the PNW folks are complaining. I realize that I must have really been a pain when I was a student and moaning about the weather. Its a wonder Kendra married me.

I have made plans to catch up with my buddy Wes who has just taken an associate position after spending the past several years in Cameroon as a missionary. I am planning to drive out to his church on Sunday and spend some time with him. I will have to skip a few things to do it but hey if a reserve delegate has to have some privlidges.

Peace Y'all

Middway through Day 2

Two cool cats hanging out in the hallway. Patrick and Marie are wearing "Spotted Owl" hats. These have become the symbol for younger clergy and some of the issues being brought forward to assist the church in recruiting and retaining clergy under 35 or 40 or 45. I'm not really sure what the line for younger is presently.

I had been getting frustrated last night and today with Bishops talking about how our differences need to be set aside so that we could do ministry. The unspoken implication seemed to be that diversity was not a value of the General Conference. I don't think this is what they meant. Yet so far the presentations of the Bishop's has seemed to be of a tone that we need magically set aside our differences and get along. I grew frustrated at their lack of naming the differences. I have some great friends in ministry with whom I disagree about many things. Those differences are valued and while sometimes they are difficult to work through in our friendships we do not hide our diversity of opinion or our beliefs. The bishops have seemed to want to hide everything under a rug.

Then we had the "Young People's Address." Apparently this was the first time that there has been such a thing and they did a remarkable job. They spoke of the difference between speaking over each other and talking with each other. The pointed to poverty as the greatest world wide challenge in front of us. They called for the church to be a place where young people belong. I was especially moved by a young man from Nebraska who said that "It is time to transcend the division." He spoke of his life experience as a high school liberal in a conservative area. Then of his experience as a person of faith in a liberal college. He called for us to follow the Wesley tradition of following religion and reason together. I remember him saying both liberal and conservative (or did he say "red and "blue"?) are right! Then Matt from the PNWAC closed the presentation. He spoke of a world that is desperate for Jesus. He encouraged us to interact with one another. He pointed out that it is not only the young who are the church of today and tomorrow, the delegates are also the church of tomorrow!

Three times I heard the young people name some of our divisions and say the word "gay." The word the Bishops have been so afraid to say. The young people named our divisions so NOW we can be the church. We can interact with each other in authenticity, whether we agree or not. It was a dramatic moment to have the youth and young adults lead in such a powerful way when the Bishops could not or would not.

Committee meetings this afternoon and evening. Yippee!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 1 finished

Picture is from Communion service.

It is presently 11:43 P.M. local time.

Worship began at 6:00 with a wonderful presentation of music and dance. I chuckled some when even at General Conference the sound system was imperfect with the occasional feedback and on one song the song leader and the person running the video screen got out of sync. Just like our local churches! I was also a bit amused that while we will be voting on creating a new hymnal we don't use them at General Conference. There was a printed order of the service but everything was displayed on the four large screens around the auditorium. Why do we need that new hymnal?

Bishop Huie gave the sermon using the conference theme "A future with hope." I forgot to take notes during the sermon. I remember one example of hope becoming a marshmallow word, such as "I hope I can help" being a way to say "I would rather not." Instead we were encouraged to live into the hope of the risen Christ. A hope that is for something not yet seen but that can be realized.

The first business of the conference was primarily housekeeping. The bar for voting was set as the main floor of the auditorium. They tested the voting system. 90% of the delegate voted that they were present. Leaving 10% who apparently thought it would be funny to vote that they were not present. In bigger news John was voted as the most respected Apostle followed closely by John. Judas got 120 votes. Again, delegate humor.

So with the voting system in full operation it was time to vote for the rules of the conference. TWO HOURS. It took two hours to vote for the rules. There were amendments, questions and referrals. At least one time it took a youth delegate to notice that a whole section of the rules had been skipped. Thank God for YOUTH!

We also heard from the Commission of the General Conference. Apparently they put on this whole shindig. They have a petition to reduce the maximum number of delegates from 1,000 to 600. I am not a fan of this idea. Primarily I object to reducing the number of delegates as we are trying to become a world wide church. Small conferences like the PNW could be reduced to two or four voting delegates and it wasn't all that long ago that we had ten.

We were told that the attendance for worship this evening was about 6,500. I love that they announced that. It could create a game like guessing the attendance at Safeco Field. It seemed like about 4,000 of those 6,500 left immediately after worship.

Finally we witnessed a video and heard from a couple of speakers on the topic of diversity and sensitivity training. Delegates were encouraged to:

  • Tell the truth about who we are

  • Let us listen to each other

  • Let us remember that we have not yet achieved the diversity we seek

  • Let us demonstrate our respect

The video was well done and I especially the clips from "The Office."

So that's one day done. It is now 12:20 A.M. and wake up is 6:00 A.M. So I can get to the 7:o0 Western Jurisdiction delegation meeting. Yippee! I will have to write my post complaining about how we expect to care for ourselves with this sort of schedule another time.

Peace Y'all!

Day 1

The General Conference Schedule begins late today.

6:00 Opening Worship

8:00 "Organization of the General Conference"
This first plenary session seems to be about testing the voting system, approving the rules, adoption of the calendar and exciting things such as that.

Presently we are waiting at the hotel for a shuttle to the convention center. I am hanging out with the young adults realizing that I am old. Sigh.

Hopefully we will get through registration soon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

87 Degreees and Muggy

I have arrived in Ft. Worth. Had a pleasant conversation with my Taxi Driver. He was from Ghana. We talked about football (soccer for many of you) and the poor understanding most Americans have of geography.

As the title suggests it is 87 and muggy. Considering the 40 something temperature and rain I just left in Portland that is quite a change. I walked up to my room and realized why I spent most of my time in seminary (Perkins School of Theology, SMU, Dallas) in Birkenstock's, shorts and T-Shirts. I didn't even pack my Birkys for General Conference! The great quandary of life in Texas is; do you dress for the outside temperature or the inside one? Why dress for a few minutes of outside hot and muggy when the air conditioner often seems to be set for 62 degrees?

The hotel room is nice, it even has a little kitchenette, not that I imagine that I will have the time to make use of it. Seems like the daily schedule from Thursday on is 7:00 A.M. until 11:00 P.M.

Feel free to put your questions in the comments and I will try to get to them. I'm going to go explore my surroundings.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Future With Hope

The theme for General Conference is "A future with hope." It will be interesting to see how the delegates of the 2008 session live into that idea!

As we prepare for the conference the delegation has received reports and looked through "The Daily Christian Advocate" to familiarize ourselves with what issues we can anticipate to be involved with. ("The Daily Christian Advocate" is the title of the published materials for the General Conference. We currently have three volumes of reports and legislation and there will be daily publications throughout the conference.) It is a bit overwhelming to try to look through all of the material. It is also impossible to know which of the petitions will survive through committee and come to the General Conference floor.

Glancing through the material you can find petitions on a wide variety of subjects and often petitions on the same issue from opposing sides. One petition that caught my eye yesterday wants to amend the United Methodist Church's stand on the death penalty. Jonathan Carlsen of Arcadia, FL has submitted a petition asking that we delete the line "We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings." The petition he submitted includes other language to make it sound as if the U.M.C. condones the death penalty as a means of criminal justice. I don't think that particular item will pass but who knows?

In our last delegation meeting Kristina Gonzalez gave a report about the work of "the task group on the Global Nature of the Church." Kristina is a staff member of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and she was a member of this task group. Their report is a response to the ever changing nature of the United Methodist Church. For most of our history we have been a church of the United States. However, approximately 3 million of our 11 million members live outside of the U.S. We are no longer only an "American Church." We are the church in Africa, Asia and Europe as well. The major legislation coming from this group will be to eliminate the word "central" conferences for those conferences outside the U.S. and to create regional conferences of which the U.S. will be one. In the proposed legislation the U.S. would retain their jurisdictional conferences and their work of electing bishops.

At first look this seems to me to be the right thing to do. It gives some equality to our relationship with the international conferences and it may open the door for some autonomy for the U.S. church to deal with its social and cultural issues. It is forces those of us in the United States to recognize that there is more to the United Methodist Church than what exists within our boundaries.

The other hot topic of delegation meetings (now that our housing situation is settled) seems to be around Rule 12 of the Rules of Order. It reads "Cell phone use is not permitted in the plenary hall or the legislative committee rooms by delegates or observers. In addition, the use of laptop computers, personal digital assistants, pagers and other electronic devices should be in furtherance of General Conference business and done in such a manner that does not disturb other participants. . . ." There is also talk of an attempt to prevent wireless Internet access on the conference floor. There will be access in other parts of the building so how they are going to shield one particular area is a mystery to me. It has also been pointed out many of the delegates can access the Internet through their cell phone providers. I don't know what the point of this exercise in futility is by the planners but I hope the old codgers catch on that the post modern era is one of making full use of information technology.

Peace, Y'all. (see I'm getting ready for Ft. Worth)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ch - Ch - Ch - Changes

Yesterday Longview UMC made the announcement : "It is the intention of Bishop Ed Paup to appoint the Rev. Bruce D. Smith to Mill Plain United Methodist Church effective July 1, 2008."

It was an emotional time for everyone in worship. While I was able to prepare some for the announcement for the most part these things come as a surprise as we work to keep confidentiality and fairness for everyone involved. I hope that the people of LUMC will be able to begin looking forward to the possibilities of the new energy a pastoral change can bring.

From the other side: Brianna is giddy that Daddy will be closer to home. Camas UMC is happy to have some added security that Kendra could be their pastor for the next few years. I anticipate that Mill Plain is excited to have a pastor named and to be looking forward.

I will greatly miss the people of LUMC and I look forward to hearing about their continued ministry in the coming years. In the meantime there are the celebrations of Easter and LUMC's 5th anniversary of becoming a reconciling congregation!

May God Bless everyone in the midst of these changes!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Easter is coming, Easter is coming!

It seems like important days should be fixed on the calendar. We always know when Christmas is going to be. There seems to be little doubt when we will celebrate the Fourth of July. And we always know when the most important day of the Christian year is going to be . . . or do we?

Why is Easter day so early this year? March 23 is the second earliest date Easter can begin. Easter as the central holiday of the Christian faith has always been an important time but what day is it? Easter Sunday is set by this easy to remember formula; it is on the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21st. Why March 21st? Because it was the date the church understood to be the vernal equinox. This was a great compromise in the early church between those who wanted Easter to begin on the Julian calendar and those who wanted to stick with the lunar calendar.

Really though, I think it is good that it is hard for us to know on any given year just when Easter is coming. Easter should be a surprise! It is God’s greatest surprise after all. The idea that God loves us so much that life continues even after death.

So enjoy the early Easter this year, it won’t come around this early again until 2160 and if you don’t like an early Easter in 2011 Easter will begin on the second latest date possible April 24.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Freedom for my people

Where have you experienced abundance living in God’s covenant? That was the question for this weeks study guide today.

The Reading is Isaiah 55:1-5 and the prophet enthusiastically describes what it will be like for the people when they are restored in God’s covenant.

These past two weeks I have been blessed to spend time with family and friends and to just really enjoy the abundance of love and relationships. We played games, ate food and everyone was having a good time. God’s covenant is about relationships with people and God and I am thankful for all the people in my life.

This Saturday we will have the opportunity to do the same on the 12th Night of Christmas celebration. Meet at the church at 6:00 and bring a snack food and/or a game to play.

Sunday we will begin a new sermon series called “Freedom for my people.” I will be preaching this Sunday then we will be welcoming Cynthia Washington to talk about liberation from an African American perspective on January 13th.

Last night as we got home late from spending time with family and friends, Brianna went to her room and I settled into the couch to watch some TV. During a break I went to her room to check on her and she wasn’t there. I looked in my bedroom, she wasn’t there. I called to Kendra, “I can’t find Brianna.” (I was reminded of when Brianna was not yet a toddler and Kendra ran upstairs, “I can’t find Brianna!” She had crawled under the computer desk and fallen asleep.) I called downstairs, Brianna, Brianna! Finally I heard here voice from the basement where she had curled up to watch TV since it wasn’t her bedtime yet.

Jesus tells stories in the gospels of God searching for the lost. Jesus understood that God had a passion for those who were outsiders. As LUMC joined the hundreds in the Diversity March, when LUMC decided to join the Reconciling Ministry Network and to open our doors to everyone we too aligned ourselves with God’s passion for the least the last and the lost.

Freedom for my people is a sermon series that reminds us of God’s passion for the lost and of the obligation of the church to be about God’s work of extending grace to all.

Grace and Peace,