In June of 2009, I was ordained as an Elder in Full Connection in the United Methodist Church in the The Pontchartrain Center, Kenner, LA. All my family and friends came to see my ordination. I remember the event, but more than the event, I remember events around the event. That year, someone didn’t get ordained, so there was a protest during the ordination service where folks stood up and made loud noises to disrupt the service. For a moment in time the entire ordination service just stopped while people caused a ruckus in the room. Everyone looked at one another not knowing what to do. Do we keep going? Do we stop? Do we do something different? It was a confusing interruption for an otherwise solemn moment.
The next day, something else happened that made me even angrier than the interruption during the ordination service. We were voting on constitutional amendments that year, and right outside the doorway four people were handing out voting guides. The voting guides were printed to look official. There was no names printed on the voting guide, just which amendments to vote for any why. I quickly scanned the voting guide and noticed that all of the why part was from a conservative caucus group. I got so angry I stormed back out and confronted the pastor handing out these guides. I told him, “You can’t do this!” He was passing these voting guides out as “official UMC documents”. We had a heated discussion on why he could not pass this stuff out with no names attached to it. When our session started, we had to have multiple clarifications on how this caucus group’s voting guide was NOT official.
While this blog didn’t originate the idea, one of the contributors added to the idea. Personally, I don’t see the big deal or why it caused so much drama, but it definitely struck a nerve with a lot of people.
So I thought I might share my annual conference story with a reminder about what it is we do at General Conference. We have General Conference every four years to lead an entire world wide denomination. General Conference is responsible for everything from doctrine to hymnals! (Only General Conference can authorize a new hymnal.) They have huge tasks to undertake for two weeks every four years.
In one of Jeremy Smith’s best blog posts he reminds us of one of the most important things about General Conference. We elect delegates, NOT representatives.
That is a great distinction. A representative represents their constituency. So one would expect a representative to vote how their constituency would want them to. But a delegate has had authority delegated to them. They have been elected on their own character and bring only the good of the Church Universal to the table at General Conference.
We elected delegates at this past Annual Conference. Whether or not the person(s) I voted for got elected doesn’t change the fact that these are the people we are sending to discern what is best for the entire body of The United Methodist Church. It does not help for me to pester them with a thousand questions on which way they are going to vote and why and would they consider changing their minds. The best thing I can do for those who have been elected from my conference is pray for them, and that is what I have done since our Annual Conference. I have prayed for our delegates and the delegates from other Annual Conferences. No matter what I believe on this issue or that issue, these are the people have the responsibility to lead The United Methodist Church into the next four years.
I can honestly say I don’t want them to vote for me. I want them to vote for the entire church and God’s kingdom.
My hope and prayer for them is not that they vote the way that I want them to or the way that a caucus group wants them to or the way a voting guide wants them to or the way whoever yells the loudest wants them to or the way whoever gives them a cell phone wants them to.
I pray they engage in real holy conferencing with other delegates from across the world seeking God’s will.
I pray they worship with one another, eat with one another, discern with one another.
I pray they read scripture together and not voting guides.
I pray they can tune out all the noise and listen for the Holy Spirit.
I pray they can listen for that still small voice.
It is not found in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire.