Last week I asked you to begin praying for General Conference 2019 every Wednesday through February 27, the day after the Conference closes. In my original invitation in our January Sower article, I confessed that I really didn’t know what to pray for. This is still a murky issue for me. But as I’ve tried to model the way for you as a congregation, I have been buoyed by some of my research.
You may know that the term “Methodist” was originally a term of derision. People made fun of the followers of John Wesley because of the strict and tedious ‘method’ of discipleship he espoused. Wesley wisely ‘took back’ the term and embraced the disciplines of his method. Weekly class meetings, regular Communion, frequent visits to the poor and displaced, weekly worship attendance, frequent study of Scripture, holy conferencing regularly to discern God’s will for congregations, conferences and the church as a whole….these methods made for resolute Christians, the kind that could stand firm in the massive societal changes occurring in Britain at the time. These methods took the New World by storm as the American Methodist church used them to minister effectively in the frontiers of America.
I remind you of this because I have watched the methods that have led to our upcoming General Conference. Watch this from our most local delegates to the Commission on a Way Forward, Rev. Donna Prichard of Portland 1st UMC and our former Bishop Grant Hagiya as they describe both the purpose and the process of the Commission.
Perhaps I’m being too melodramatic here, but I am encouraged by reports that those on extreme opposite ends of the spectrum were dining together. In our digital day and age, where factions battle each other from behind computer screens, meeting face-to-face and breaking bread has to have peace-making power. I know that the more we humanize one another, the more we recognize the face of God in each other and the less likely we are to allow differences to become divisions.
To learn more about the Commission on a Way Forward, you can read their final report here. It outlines both the process and the outcomes of their work, including analysis of the 3 plans being presented at GC 2019.
Which brings me back to prayer. Today, I know that I want to pray for holy and loving processes for GC 2019. I want a spirit of mutuality and respect to exude from the room in St. Louis. I want for each delegate to be fair and honorable in their conduct. I want them to view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ called to the ministry of reconciling a fracture in the church. Ultimately, I believe that a just and right outcome cannot come from an unjust and weak process.
Finally, I want to ask you to begin praying for your PNW delegation to GC 2019. You may not know them directly, but they are your voices in the room at this momentous occasion. Rev. Mary Huycke shares her hope for the conference and asks your prayers.
So there…the process of discipline on our half and an anticipation of the Holy Spirit doing work through GC 2019…this is what we ought to pray for today. Will you join me?