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,

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,

Frustrating Thoughts

This week the Nebraska Legislature debated and voted on a bill to abolish the death penalty as an option for murder convictions. Sen. Ernie Chambers, in his final year of service due to newly term limits, offered the push for this bill as he has for the last 30 years. I really thought that it may actually get passed this time around. Much to my disappointment, the bill failed 28-20.

In early February, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair is cruel and unusual. For those of you that don’t know, electrocution is the only means of death in Nebraska. More info on the ruling can be found here: New York Times.
Yes, Nebraska now allows for the death penalty without any means of imposing that punishment. I like to think of this as the “systems” way of “sticking it to themselves.”

I watched much of the floor debate on television as I sat in Nebraska during break. I wanted to be there in person, but my recent encounter with a deer prohibited that. Through watching this, I realized how politicians generalize statements and rarely use any logic that would be acceptable in a entry level philosophy class. Those who favored keeping the death penalty stated that no matter what there personal convictions were, they had to respect the polls that showed a majority of Nebraskans supported the death penalty. Now, any of us that have taken any statistics or political polling class now that these polls can be misleading and favor a certain demographic…like people who own telephones and have the numbers listed! Forget any of the polling problems, it seemed very much like a way to sidestep any moral responsibility for their vote. “I have to represent the people, now what I think”. Bull! If we never made a decision on what was right versus what is popular we would have many socially devastating laws and institutions in place. Yes, I’m referring to slavery and state sponsored racism.

My greatest problem all of this is that the political might of the churches should help get the death penalty abolished once and for all. Two large churches in a vast majority of Nebraska communities is the Catholic church and the United Methodist Church. Both of these religious communities oppose the use of the death penalty. Pro-Life anyone? If each of these churches educated its members on their position on the issue, I can almost guarantee the thoughts of the majority would change. I’m too lazy to find the language around the Catholic church’s comments about the death penalty, but here is the stance of the United Methodist Church.

“We believe the death penalty denies the power of Christ to redeem, restore and transform all human beings. The United Methodist Church is deeply concerned about crime throughout the world and the value of any life taken by a murder or homicide. We believe all human life is sacred and created by God and therefore, we must see all human life as significant and valuable. When governments implement the death penalty (capital punishment), then the life of the convicted person is devalued and all possibility of change in the person’s life ends. We believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and that the possibility of reconciliation with Christ comes through repentance. This gift of reconciliation is offered to all individuals without exception and gives all life new dignity and sacredness. For this reason, we oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes.”(Social Principles,¶ 164G)

Scripture reference: Matthew 5:38-39 and John 8:1-10

I find it difficult to sit and have meaningful conversation with people who support the death penalty. Inevitably it will always come to, “If someone in your family is killed, don’t you want to see that person suffer the same way?” It’s that exact situation that makes want to have the death penalty abolished. I don’t want the ability for that to happen. I most likely won’t be of sound mind when the process would come about, and the State will kill someone with my support. Governments should not kill! If the option isn’t there, then we can assure that mistakes don’t happen. Don’t get me wrong, murderers need to be punished. I think that life in prison is more than suitable punishment. Insert argument: “Why should we pay for them to sit around their whole life?” My answer, GOVERNMENTS SHOULDN’T KILL PEOPLE! Also, research has shown that the cost of life in prison is less expensive than the entire death row experience.

Okay, I’ve vented enough for now. Just had to get these thoughts down. They may not all be coherent, but it’s a start. Oh, by the way, I hit a deer with my car on the way home for Easter. $3000 in damage. I’m fine, the car will be. Thankfully I have good insurance and it won’t cost too much out of pocket. Just more stress than I need right now.

Grace and Peace,

After the first week

Well, I am officially a graduate student. Not only that, but a seminarian. This week has been stressful, overwhelming, exciting, inspiring, frightening, calming, and many other things all rolled into a single week period in Kansas City.

I have realized how little work I did as an undergraduate student. I never really developed a good discipline for studying or completing work. That is now beginning to attack me full force. I am 3/4 of the way through the reading for one course. I’ve spent two days on it. Luckily, this week I only had 2 courses. Next week I add 3 more classes on Monday. I know things will probably settle down over time, and I will learn to adapt and complete the things I need to get by, but at this point it is too much.

The new job is going okay so far. Still not really sure what will go on, but I’m starting to see a few things form. I am going to attempt to start 2 groups at first, which will be primarily lead by me. It looks like we will have a movie viewing/discussion group and a topical/faith issues group. I really hope the college students are as interested as they seem to be in all of this. I really don’t have the time to be a lot of effort into something that is totally going to flop.

I’m learning to take time for my own spiritual discipline, which is something I haven’t done well in the past. I attend some type of worship service 4 days a week. 2 of those are at Saint Paul on Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 is on Thursday at Baker, and finally I go to a church on Sunday. It has been nice to be able to be a part of a congregation, and not part of the leadership.

I hope to find time to update this often and use it as a reflective tool with what I am doing in my life.