I have a bizarre relationship with General Conference. Gosh, even the fact that I think I have a “relationship with General Conference” borders on the ridiculous. (OK, to be honest, it advances well into the territory of the ridiculous and borders on the pathetic.)
I experienced my first call to ordained ministry while sitting in the stands at the 1976 Portland General Conference where my father was a delegate. I was fifteen. A photographer with the United Methodist Reporter happened to be standing nearby right at that time and snapped this shot. It ran the next day, May 21, on the front page of the Reporter in a montage with three other pictures of people looking, listening, and speaking at General Conference.
A few weeks before my first General Conference in 2004, I first began having bizarre and (usually) happy mystical experiences that ebb and flow with no discernable pattern but one; they usually show up when I’m doing church politics, especially around General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
You might not think that something as tedious and hard ball and maddening as church politics has anything to do with mystical experience, but oddly enough, there is a connection. Church reform is often fueled by ecstatic religious experiences. Maybe God knows that ordinary Christians — and especially goofy second string Christians like me – have no way of withstanding the rigors of church politics without some extra help. It’s like giving troops on the front lines extra rations — or at least a larger share of the cigarettes and chocolates. (I’m kidding … about the cigarettes anyway.)
The call of my life is the reform of the church, particularly the ways we shape our leaders. That’s what I do. That’s who I am. I’m confident that there are others here at General Conference who could say the same thing or something like it.
Here’s what I don’t understand (truly): If this is the call of my life and if I’m working as hard as I possibly can (even harder) and if I’m praying earnestly and if I’m trying to detach and let go of outcome, why in God’s name are things not working out any better than this?
Of course, it might help if I didn’t try and strain quite so hard. Trying so hard to let go borders on the ridiculous. OK, to be honest, it has advanced all the way through the territory of the ridiculous and on into the land of the pathetic and borders on idiocy.
A reporter asked me today to describe my experience of this General Conference with one word. That’s easy: “Boo-hoo.”
I’m confident that there are others here at General Conference who could say the same thing. Hey, I know how you feel!