COMMENTARY: I rise for a point of personal privilege…

It’s been a long day. We’ve waded through the mass of legislation that is now known as Plan UMC. We debated long and hard about divestiture. We even wondered if we’d make it through changing the name from “lay speaker ministries” to lay servant ministries.” And tomorrow will be even longer still as we discern the right approach for providing for clergy pensions, andvery likely (although not completely certain) will wade into the sexuality related calendar items.

Whew!

While I have your attention as you are wading through all that has been before us and all that is to come, I want to take a moment of personal privilege for two overt and unsubtle plugs. After all, I rarely get the opportunity to invite 15,000 people to join me in my endeavors, and I might as well take advantage of it while the opportunity is at the door.

First, this site,www.gc2012conversations.com, is a partnership. The United Methodist News Service (a division of United Methodist Communications) is providing some of the funds for the operation of this site, but the site that I run,www.methoblog.com, is providing the expertise and hopefully the networking upon which this thing is built. I know that you will very likely continue to visitwww.umc.orgin the future for all things United Methodist, but I want want to invite you to check out theMethoBlog, and become part of the community there. We currently aggregate the content of almost 300 United Methodist bloggers to provide a single place for you to connect with what United Methodists are thinking. While some of suggested that blogging is dead, the fact is that it’s tough to have enough space to reflect on the deep needs and call of our church in 140 characters or in a Facebook status update.www.methoblog.comlinks to some of the great thinkers in our communion, especially those on the cutting edge, urging us to a new way of being. We would love to add your blog to the list, and hope that you will come check it out.

One of the folks who we follow is Diane Kenaston, part of the amazing Kenaston family (her mom is the chair of the rules committee for this conference). This morning she wrote a slightly tongue in cheek butmostlyserious blog post calling for the establishment of a Commission on Theology and Ecclesiology by the General Conference. She wrote:

Most importantly, we showed that our need for restructure was not a need to reduce and reorganize the boards and agencies of the church, but rathera need for intense theological, Biblical, and ecclesial(what it means to bechurch)study.

Therefore, I move that we create aCommission on Theology and Ecclesiology, to guide us in our work and to ensure that everything we do is done with both love and care.

While Dianne was reflecting out of her pain from this morning’s session, her post reflected an ongoing conversation that several of us have been having for at least the past year, a conversation which believes that most of our conversation isfocused on the wrong things.As is our heritage, we as a body continue to believe that we can structure our way out of our current dilemma, when in fact the biggest struggle that we face is alack of a coherent and consistent theological understanding about why God is calling the United Methodist Church to exist, and what our common shared values include.

In a desire to take a stab at those questions, a group of us created a document we callThe Missional Manifesto for the People Called United Methodist.While I won’t go into the full history here, it is an attempt to articulate in a concise way the theological center of our calling by God toproclaim the reign of God and make disciples for the transformation of the world. A group of about 20 drafted the manifesto’s first draft, and then the document was then opened up for comment and input via Facebook which led to the creation of the current version. We are looking for folks who would be willing to read through and agree that this might form a basis (a rule of life?) upon which our common ministry is based. There is a place for you to “sign on” as a signatory on the document. Currently over 250 persons have said that this document is helpful in guiding their ministry (you can see a list of the supporters byclicking here).

Yes, tomorrow will be a long day, but before we know it the gavel will come down and we will all be headed home. THEN the real work begins — the much more difficult and important work of trying to build trust in a communion where that seems in short supply.

The MethoBlogandmissionalmethodist.orgare two spaces for conversation on who we are as United Methodists. We hope and pray that they can be resources that will help our church come together and tell our stories as we discern where God is leading us.

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