The suitcases are packed and I’m just about to head downstairs to get the luggage cart to load up the car. After a quick visit to the Agenda Committee meeting (I’m not going to leave you completely helpless!) I’m pointing the car north and making the trip to Nashville.
I’d like to say the past two weeks was fun — and in many ways it was. One of the realities of coming to General Conference for us old-timers is the reunion aspect — the chance to reconnect with old friends as we also make new ones as well. But let’s not also realize for those of us who are MethoNerds, enmeshed (maybe unhealthily) in the minutae of the church, we revel in the details of this plan and that agency. We love our church, and almost every person in that convention center wants to see a healthy church move into the future. We differ on what that looks like, but I can never deny that this experiment in Christian community that we call the United Methodist Church unites us in our attempt to walk in the way of Jesus.
However, it’s the differences that make, for many of us, this two weeks in Tampa a somewhat depressing experience. Of course, some of that comes from the grueling schedule, bad hotel beds, and too many meals at the Champion’s Sports Bar (go tothe Marriott if you’ve never been and get the shrimp quesadillas). But much of what ails us is the continuing lack of trust between various factions — liberal and conservative, evangelism vs social justice focused, clergy and laity, and the list goes on. In fact, the breach in trust is perhaps the theme of this entire conference, and in the time between now and when we gather again in Portland in 4 years, we have got to figure out a way to build some trust back in our church. Building trust HAS to be our own internal primary task (in addition to proclaiming God’s reign and making disciples) and we need to spend intentional time in figuring out how to talk to one another in a way that is holy, and that models to the world that there is indeed something different about church folks, and that we are not simply mirroring our surrounding culture in our political divide.
I’m certainly not done talking about this, and I hope you will check out some of what I’m thinking at my personal blog,Only Wonder Understands, as well as the various conversations we will continue to have on Facebook and Twitter.
This has been the most thoroughly reported General Conference in the history of our church. Throughout most of the day, we had more people watching what you were doing on-line than were present in the plenary hall. We saw almost 25,000 people visit this site yesterday, serving up almost 100,000 pages of information.
I personally think that is a good thing, and if I have been a catalyst for helping our church develop a deeper understanding of the issues we face, and a stronger knowledge about our polity and life together, then I feel like I have met my goals for this conference. I thank all of you for your participation, and I hope that we can keep up the conversation, so that when we get together 4 years from now we will be a very different church.
See you soon. Keep walking with Christ.