April 26, 2008
In addition to wonderful worship and listening to reports, much of our time during the first 4-5 days of General Conference is spent in Legislative Committees. There were 1500+ petitions sent from individuals, churches, conferences and agencies around the world for the General Conference to consider. Thankfully, every delegate does not have to consider each of them! Instead, we have been split into thirteen legislative committees which consider petitions relevant to different sections of the Book of Discipline. Your four elected delegates each volunteered for a Committee that we were most interested in. I am serving on the Faith and Order Committee, which consider all of the petitions related to the first section of the Book of Discipline… the 100’s paragraphs, as well as some of the early 300’s.
I must admit to some anxiety in anticipation of my work on this Legislative Committee. We have relatively few petitions to consider (dozens rather than hundreds, like some of the other committees). However, many of the ones before us relate to some of the most divisive issues confronting the church. I feared a frustrating week of turf battles, high anxiety debates and angry interchanges. Thus far, I have been pleasing surprised to experience a process of “holy conferencing” that has been transformational.
Our Legislative Committee elected leaders that are highly skilled in leading large groups through meaningful process. We have spent significant time in trust building. We have practiced prayerful discernment-based decision making on less divisive issues. We have done good work in perfecting some resolutions that we did not have consensus on at first. Most of all, in two days of work together, we have already developed deep sense of appreciation for one another. We have discovered that we share SO MUCH in terms of our commitments to Christ and the church. We have laughed a lot together. We have listened well… including listening to six or seven persons for whom English is not well known. We have prayed for God’s guidance throughout. And, thus far, God’s the sense of God’s spirit and love for one another has pervaded everything we have done.
The most potentially divisive petitions are still before us. However, we have developed such a deep level of trust with one another, I believe we will be able to speak the truth to one another in love, and listen well to one another. I am excited to see where the process leads us. I believe with all of my heart that together we will be able to listen for God’s leading in our midst. And I have a strong sense that we will be able to bring to the full General Conference some resolutions that MIGHT move our church to a new place.
I will report more in the days to come.