A Reflection on General Conference 2019

Ralph Thompson, Conference Lay Leader

Ralph Thompson, Conference Lay Leader

Charles Swindoll writes,

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you, we are in charge of our attitudes.”


As I attend my third General Conference of the United Methodist Church, I find special relevance for Mr. Swindoll’s understanding of the impact of ATTITUDE on all that we do, especially in our search for guidance for the Church of Jesus Christ! While there was never a realistic hope of a solution to the issues of LGBTQIA inclusiveness that would totally satisfy the desires of every United Methodist, there was a fragile hope that there would NOT be and atmosphere of defined “winners and losers”.


This is where “attitude” applies! I intentionally write this BEFORE any final plan decisions are made. You would have known the outcome of GC2019 long before reading this. More importantly, looking back at GC2019 (Praying Our Way Forward) and arguing its merits, regardless of its outcome, is now of lesser importance than “discerning a way forward” for our churches. 


At this General Conference, I learned that all participants, regardless of their preference of plans for a way forward, came with passions and beliefs that the plans they supported are pleasing to God and reflect the teachings of Christ Jesus. And, while many anticipate the emergence of specific winners and losers, I maintain that the only true victory still lies in Jesus!


It is the attitudes with which we go forward that will determine the future of every United Methodist congregation, regardless of which plan (or if no plan) is adopted. Speeches from the floor of GC2019 and correspondence from Rio Texas members often imply that the life or death of their churches is balanced on the adoption or failure of a particular plan.


The fact of the matter is undeniable: On the first Sunday of March, churches will open; worshippers will sing hymns, welcome visitors and pray; offerings will be taken to continue the administration and ministries of the church;  sermons will motivate us to service; and church activities and missions will be announced. On the following days, weeks, and months, people in our mission fields will still be hungry, homeless, hurting, disenfranchised, abused, lost, and seeking. Our post-GC2019 attitudes will affect our response to our mission fields…even more than any plan.


I will leave General Conference with an attitude of hope – a hope that is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness…not on a “plan”. Regardless of the outcome of GC2019, hundreds of delegates will report the “bad news” to their congregations. I prefer to return to my church and Annual Conference with the GOOD NEWS that our mission remains as relevant as ever…to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and that He has promised to be with us always, even to the end of the age!


How will YOUR church discern its way forward?


Ralph Thompson
Conference Lay Leader