Almost Done

Sorry about not being able to update as regularly as I wanted. Most nights I get to my hotel around midnight and then have to be up at 5:30am. The last few days have been very long and hard. The General Conference did vote to maintain exclusive language in the discipline as it relates to homosexuality. The debate was hurtful and saddening at many times. There was an option to pass a petition that included language, in which I see much truth, that we do not agree on the issue of homosexuality and that we can still be faithful members of the church.

Today (Thursday) there was a witness on the floor of the General Conference by those who were most hurt by this vote. The Council of Bishops allowed this show of witness to the entire body. This was a very moving moment that brought me to tears many times. Bishops, Clergy, and Laity were seen showing there support to the community of people we have institutionally discriminated against. The very moving part was to see the Bishops who stood in support of this cause. Many of them put themselves in positions to be criticized publicly, and for that they should be thanked.

I plan on offering a more detailed look back on General Conference once the sessions are over and I am back in Kansas City. I should have that posted sometime this weekend.

Peace with Justice,
Z

Sunday Update

Today was a tough day emotionally and physically. My legislative committee spent a good portion of the day debating the language in Paragraph 304 of the United Methodist Book of Discipline. That paragraph deals with requirements/restrictions to ordination. My sub-committee also dealt with this paragraph. In the end the committee voted, by a margin of 20, to maintain language that states the homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and that self-avowed practicing homosexuals cannot being appointed.

This process was very emotional and tiring. For the most part, it was a civil discussion. My biggest problem was the arguments that said that acceptance of our LGBT members would lead to a moral backslide that leads to polygamy, unsafe place for children, and cult activity. One member of the committee paralleled homosexuality and the recent events in Texas with the fundamentalist sect that was raided by the government.

This decision greatly saddens me. I don’t understand the hate that comes this way. I don’t hate those who I think miss use and mistreat the teachings of Jesus. It’s hard being a supporter of LGBT rights with the way I’m looked at and treated, but it is small in comparison to those in the LGBT community and deal with it all the time. It’s times like this I find it hard to continue in the ordination process in the United Methodist Church. As an elder, I would be called upon to maintain an institution and doctrine I do not agree with in major ways.

One moving moment today was when a Swahili interpreter stopped mid-translation to state that he was merely interpreting and that it pained him to say these words, since they were not his own belief. Our chair of the committee, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Moore, has been a very strong leader and has been an inspiration. She shared today how hard it is to lead and present a decision to the General Conference that she did not agree with, but the love she had for the church and the people would lead her to do all she could to present the will of our committee.

It’s been a long day, and I’ll have more reflection and reactions later. Time is not on my side for many updates at this time.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Quick Update

This will be short since I’m updating from my phone. My legislativegroup moved slowly yesterday. Today we will be discussing ordinationstandards, specifically around sexuality. It will be a test to theunity in holy conferencing we have been striving for.Yesterday my group discussed gender and how it is defined. We didn’thave any motions or votes, just discussion. People on all sides areconfused and curious about what we should do. As issues around genderidentity and sexual orientation become more personal for people, itbecomes more difficult to be dogmatic and theoretical on these issues.This gives me hope. Let’s hope I feel this way after today.Grace and

Peace,
Z

First Full Day

We’ve completed our first full day of General Conference. So far, the highlights have definitely been the worship and music. During our times together, it is obvious to feel the Spirit in the convention center. The day was filled with initial reports from different areas of the church. Worship flowed right into the Episcopal Address. I found the address to be very hope filled, but my skepticism is still coming through. I hear about recruiting young clergy, and reaching to younger people, but I never hear how the church is going to do this.

My favorite part of the day was the Young People’s Address. The report was filled with energy and excitement. These young people get the church. They spoke of bridging gaps and rising above our divisions, but needing to respect each other in that process. They were not afraid to take the “tough” issues head on. Many people here try to get around saying that we don’t agree on issues about sexuality, gender, and race. These people had no problem with that. This report left me hopeful that there can be a future in the church. I only can pray that others in attendance will take this all seriously.

We began our work in legislative groups. My group is the Faith and Order Committee. The chair we elected is Dr. Mary Elizabeth Moore, who spoke at Saint Paul last fall. We didn’t get into any actual business during the first day. We spent time getting to know others on the committee and setting a town for a civil process of legislation.

That’s all for now, hopefully we will start having some detail filled days were I can share interesting happenings.

Grace and Peace,
Z

Nothing Big Yet

Well, I am well into the first full day of General Conference. Last night’s opening worship was amazing. I found it to be a really good start to things. The service was very good for a experiential person like me. Lots of music, dancing, color, and excitement. After worship, we went into the business portion. Then, I felt like going home. I didn’t get back to the hotel until around 11:45pm. I had to be ready to go by 6:00am this morning.

One thing that bothered me yesterday was a debate on whether we should have parliamentarians appointed to legislative groups. The debate turned into white, middle-aged men from Southern US against it, and minority groups for it. It overwhelmingly passed, but was a debate that stressed me out.

I report more tonight on the days activities, including the first ever Young Persons Address…which was awesome.

It’s Time…

At 8:30am tomorrow morning, I will board a plane for Ft. Worth, Texas. The last year has gone by fast, and it is hard to believe that it is time for General Conference. While I have many personal hopes for the event, most of all I hope for a civil discussion where every point of view is allowed to be brought forward. Adam put a very good prayer for General Conference on his blog. I also hope that we can fulfill God’s call for us in these situations and our time is not spent entirely on political maneuvering and back room fighting.

Update: I will blog from my personal point of view, with all of my personal bias and possible cynicism on this blog. If you would like to see my contribution to the reporting for the Nebraska Annual Conference, check it out here.

Please keep all of us in Ft. Worth in your prayers. The days are long, and the discussions emotional; every extra prayer will help.

Grace and Peace,
Z