Friday, May 2, 2008

Ray's Blackberry Round #4

Home stretch my friends. Thank you for affording me the privilege of representing you and our church and Lord here in Fort Worth. I return with joy in my heart and abundant hope for the future. I offer, and I know other of my fellow delegates will as well, to visit with you upon return to share the fruits of this blessed connection.

Please pray for our safe travels.

good news

I am healing.

Yesterday there was good news from our sessions. Between Blenda and Ray taking a few sessions off I was on the floor for all three sessions, my brain started to turn to mush towards the end of the night.

We approved voting rights for local pastors. This is a group of people that have long been disenfranchised, as they have been in a twilight zone between lay and clergy status. These have been faithful persons doing the work of the church often for little pay and long hours. Their voice will be heard.

Constitutional amendments were approved to remove the racist language of "central conferences", and replace that with a more appropriate "regional conferences" language. These amendments also remove language from the uniting conference in 1968 (it's about time). There will be a study group to see how we can move towards a more inclusive worldwide church rather than a US centric church as we are now. This language is just a first step.

We were able to share two great meals yesterday. We had lunch with Central Pennsylvania, and had dinner with the four uniting NY conferences. It was great to meet new friends that we will be in ministry with in our hopeful new future.

We heard from William Gates Sr. (Bill's Father). We are having a Basketball auction and the latest highest bid that I heard was $80,000, by the West Ohio conference. One conference has brought many basketballs and has guaranteed a ball signed by all of the bishops to each conference donating $1,000. The Gates Foundation has promised that they will match the highest bid. All of these funds will go to purchase anti-malarial nets for the Nothing But Nets campaign.


Thursday, May 1, 2008


I am so very grateful to be here. Still, after 8 days of long hours and endless debates, inspiring worship and heartbreaking moments it still seems a remarkable thing to be a part of our United Methodist Church. In the weeks leading up to this General Conference, I tried to prepare myself for what I assumed would be a disappointment in our system as I would be exposed to the politics and strategizing that are inevitable here. Those things are all present but what I didn’t expect was this powerful, never ending feeling of hope - like a drumbeat that never, ever stops.

I felt it in the opening worship where I was acutely aware of that presence that is both in us and beyond us - leading us all to expect great things to happen in our connection and in our world.

I felt it in my committee work as I sat around the table with United Methodists from all around the world. Our views were vastly different on many issues and other times our vote was unanimous as we reasoned together. I felt a deep connection with this group as we suspended the rules for a while and took some time for deep discussion over issues that tend to divide. It was a holy moment for me.

I felt it even yesterday through a long and difficult discussion over the issue of homosexuality. Many on both sides of the issue felt the pain and disappointment of that vote and yet, the drumbeat of hope continued through their peaceful witness this morning as we received their pain and truly listened as the body of Christ. A sister delegate from Mississippi responded to my tears with a warm embrace and again I felt hope.

As I sit here and think about so many other things to write, I will simply conclude by saying thank you for allowing me to have this experience. I will carry this hope with me always.


mixed emotions

Hi, it's Sarah.

Although many people (including myself) are continuing today with heavier hearts and slower steps than we had yesterday morning, I wanted to let you know that there are some pieces of good news coming from this General Conference.
  • The GC voted to allocate funds for a research and learning center to express regret for the lives that were lost by an 1864 massacre of Native Americans led by a Methodist lay preacher. (article here)
  • Young people are having many active leadership roles in this GC. (article here)
  • The first female African president spoke to the GC--and she's an alumna of a United Methodist school in Liberia! (article here)
  • Africa University continues to operate normally, even though the inflation rate of Zimbabwe is at 200,000%. Graduates of this university are providing leadership in their home countries in Africa and also in their churches. (article here)
  • The UMC and the Lutheran church agreed to be in full communion with one another, recognizing each other's baptisms, eucharist, and full interchangeability of ordained pastors. (article here)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a broken heart

I may think better of posting this now but I am going to go ahead anyway. I write this as my heart is broken. You are getting the raw uncensored thoughts and feelings. I just observed the defeat of the proposed language that I wrote about earlier. The minority report of the committee was adopted with some deleted and changed language from the current book of discipline but retains the "homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching." phrase. There was considerable compromise from both sides in the committees submission and admission of faithful persons disagreeing on the subject at hand. That trust was thrown out and we have moved backwards.

I watched as this was accepted by a 55% to 45% vote. I stood in solidarity as we began to sing "Jesus Loves Me". I cried as I tried to sing and nothing came out. I cried as I thought about my family and friends that are gay and continue to be condemned by a body that should be loving them. I start to lose hope and that leads me to start to lose faith.

As I said, this is raw and uncensored and I start waiting for my heart to heal.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Working Hard

As Dave stated earlier we are working long and hard, worship starts at 8 every morning and our plenary will go to at least 11 each night, probably later as the week goes on. I share with you some evidence of how hard we are working (photo's are credited to Skyler, a new friend from South Carolina).

Dave Masland Post # 3


First of all, I want to give a short piece of clarification regarding my last blog. I neglected to lay out one important detail related to the decision by the Inter-jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee to recommend to the full General Conference that the number of Episcopal areas in the Northeast Jurisdiction be reduced from ten to nine. In my note yesterday I failed to say that the motion is to make this change effective in 2012. In other words, our Jurisdiction has four years to make our transition to one less Bishop… in whatever way we choose. Pending approval of our plan at Jurisdictional Conference, this will enable those of us who have a positive vision for the future to birth the new Central Pennsylvania and the new Upstate New York Conference in 2010 (as we have planned), if everyone decides that is what God is calling is to do! However, if we decide we need more time, the funding is available to buy us one or two more years.

Next, I want to tell you about the aspects of General Conference that make the 14-15 hour work days worth-while. There are three things I LOVE about being here:

First, I have enjoyed chances to make new friends from all over the world. At General Conference you can’t help but build community with the people on your Legislative Committee and the people sitting all around you on the floor of the plenary sessions. Working your way through dozens of petitions together allows you to see one another at your best, and your worst. You can not help but come to feel close to these people. You hear about their families, pray for their churches back home, and come to appreciate their spiritual insight and wisdom. Thanks to you I have new friends from Denmark, the Congo, Russia and New Jersey!

Second, the worship is consistently engaging, soul-stirring and fun! Marcia McFee and Mark Miller, worship planners, are leading us through an ever evolving Conference-long theme of Hope. Every day, the music is extraordinary, and features songs and musicians from around the world. Drama and dance and visual effects have been consistently used to allow us to experience (not just hear about) God’s grace and love for the entire world. Each day we are hearing the best preachers across our connection. We have never had more fun worshipping God!

Last, each day we are given glimpses into incredible new life breaking forth all over the world in and through the United Methodist Church. Just today (Monday, April 29th) we had a chance to hear from a woman from Bolivia whose whole community has been transformed by money given by UM churches through the Advance. She has been training women on traditional weaving machines, and they are selling their creations around the world. Their quality of life is improving, and many new people are coming to know Christ.

We also had the privilege of seeing a 30-member children’s choir from Uganda. Just 6-8 months ago, these orphaned-by-AIDS kids were living in a refuge camp. Because of the vision and generosity of the North Georgia Conference, a new school was built, and some of the neediest orphaned children were selected to come to live at the school. They are fed, clothed, and given an education, as well as introduced to the good news of Jesus Christ. Never have I seen children filled with so much exuberance! They sang and danced their way into our hearts. And suddenly, every delegate caught a glimpse of God’s future vision of hope for Africa. For each of these experiences, I thank you.