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.