Our first full day of plenary sessions was taken up mostly by reports, elections, and a protest. The reports were good, full of many, many ways we can be proud to be United Methodist. I hope even if you’re not watching via live stream that you’ll look up some of those reports. They would make great viewing for local churches, even on the screen during worship.
The elections…took…forever. Judicial Council, University Senate, and the longest of all, the Commission on General Conference. I was nominated for that last one as a South Central Jurisdictional rep by the Council of Bishops, along with a clergywoman from Louisiana. Then there were a bunch of other people nominated from the floor for SCJ. I figured it would be something of a horse race, as several jurisdictions had been hotly contested, and that was fine with me. I hadn’t even known I was nominated until a couple of days ago! But go figure, I got elected. What does that mean? I’m not sure yet, but based on the number of people who have said to me, “Congratulations—I think,” this looks like quite the assignment. It’s the group in charge of planning the work of General Conference, from the host site to things like the Rule 44 process that was rejected this time by the body. My term will be 8 years, which means I’ll help work on the conferences slated for Minneapolis (2020) and the Philippines (2024).
Pretty soon after the election, a friend told me she just had one request for the next GC: cookies. “Remember when they used to have cookies?” I do not remember that, but if I can just be in charge of the Snack Committee for the next two General Conferences, that will suit me just fine.
Finally, the protest. In the middle of the Church and Society report, protesters wearing shirts with both Black Lives Matter and Reconciling Ministries logos entered the floor and walked through the room with chants regarding both issues. They ended up at the communion table in the middle of the room, where they banged on its surface and called for accountability from the GC and the bishops on issues of racism and LGBTQ concerns. The voices were full of pain and especially anger. As loud as it was, though, I got the distinct impression that this was only the first step in what will likely be a progressively disruptive series of protests. There has been talk of GC 2000 in Cleveland and the fact that police were called, and protesters arrested. The planners (the commission I’ll be part of? the bishops?) worked hard to keep that from happening the next time, and it hasn’t happened since. It wouldn’t surprise me, though, if it happened here. I fervently hope it doesn’t, but I think there are some folks who won’t go home without it.
By bedtime, there was word on social media of a possible plan for a split in the church, supposedly coming from a conversation among the bishops. I went to sleep skeptical and very willing to wait for more detail before jumping ahead.