Many Baltimore-Washington Conference delegates at General Conference are communicating with their churches back home. The Rev. Joseph Daniels of Emory UMC in Washington, D.C., delivered news of the event live by phone during worship last Sunday. Mike McCurry, of St. Paul’s UMC in Kensington, shared his insights in an e-mail to his pastor, the Rev. Adam Snell.
Subject: Greetings from Cowtown!
A big Texas howdy in the name of our risen Savior!
Our General Conference is off to a great start. The first two days were filled with great music, powerful preaching, and very moving worship. Seems like most delegates, alternatives, friends, observers and visitors arrived safe and sound.
We were treated to an opening worship service Wednesday night punctuated by great booms of thunder (at mostly the right places) and a good Texas gully-washer while we were safely inside the Fort Worth Convention Center. Seemed like God wanted a say in the proceedings from the beginning.
The themes emerging from the first two days are clear. The United Methodist Church needs to get very serious about transforming itself so we can do a better job of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
To transform the church we need to focus on two things: training and inspiring strong, spiritually gifted leaders; and second, to strengthen, grow, and start effective local congregations. And to transform the world, we need to focus on John Wesley’s inspired example of service in the world: we have to be with and among the poor and fight to curb the conditions that leave so many people in poverty and second, we need to stamp out killer diseases of poverty like malaria and AIDS.
These four focus areas: leadership, church strength and growth, poverty, and health have really been at the center of the reports, presentations, and discussion.
We have also been influenced by the three major presentations made so far – especially by the first-ever Youth Address given at a General Conference which got the longest sustained standing ovation of anything so far.
The Youth Address, Episcopal Address and Laity Address all admonished the church to do its work following three simple rules devised by Wesley for the church: Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay in Love with God.
In our committees and debates so far, when someone gets a little over-excited a fellow delegate will gently admonish, “Brother (or sister), stay with God, stay on the good side and not the harm side.” It seems to be working to create the right mood for deliberations and Holy Conferencing.
As of late yesterday, we are now working in committees to wrestle with over 1,600 petitions and resolutions submitted to the Conference. It’s pretty slow going at times – in my committee last night we had a 45 minute debate on the right words to use to introduce the concept of prevenient grace to the various ecumenical committees we maintain for dialogue with other denominations.
We also debated for an hour whether or not to add “Open Bibles” to the church motto, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” We finally decided that our goal was to get new folks into the “open doors” and we could get them excited by the open Bible after we got them inside.
So it goes. I am sure it will get more testy and zesty as the more controversial matters arise. But so far we have done no harm and we might have even done some good. And there is much love of God here and that sustains us through the 15-hour day.
With love to all my St. Paul’s brothers and sisters,