General Conference 2016

Five hours with Sarah and Stephen

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May 10, 2016 – My trip to Portland started Monday afternoon with a flight to Chicago, then on to the west coast. I wasn’t looking forward to the 4.5 hour flight and plane traffic, lousy weather and a slight mechanical issue in Chicago meant we were on the plane together for even longer. As we boarded we were three strangers. But about half-way across Montana we had gotten to know each other, Sarah, Stephen, and myself. After during the usual pleasantries and small talk I explained why I was going to Portland (they were appropriately jealous) and I asked if I could do some market research. They agreed…

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That diversity thing

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May 11, 2016 – Yesterday, during the first day of General Conference, I was in a huge exhibit hall of the Oregon Convention Center that will be my home for large chunks of the next 10 days. Looking around realized that it was probably the most diverse group of people I had ever been a part of. I joke that my suburb has plenty of diversity, we have tall people and short, young and old. And that’s pretty much where it ends. But yesterday the 1,100 or so of us were from around the world, with worship including snippets in perhaps a dozen languages. Places like Liberia, Russia, the Congo and the Philippines were all represented. That was the diversity that was easy to see. But our diversity goes much deeper…

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A local church and a global Discipline

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May 13, 2016 – Yesterday at General Conference we finally made it to our committee meetings. I’m working with the local church group, responsible for how local congregations operate. This is the section of the Book of Discipline that talks about Charge Conferences, committees, all that good stuff. In our first introductory meeting we (and all of the other committees) considered some basic questions. One of them concerned the nature of a global Discipline and how it affects our work. I got stuck on this one. I actually came out sounding like a bit of an anarchist. Because while I believe that one of the great strengths of our denomination is…

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Tearing down silos

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May 14, 2016 – Friday afternoon in my Local Church Committee we came across three interesting petitions.  The topic was how the annual conference should deal with the assets of a local church that had closed. The petitions came from GCF&A, GBOD and UMRA…

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The Trust Clause, part I

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May 14, 2016 – Folks who are concerned deeply about the possibility of nuclear war have what is known as the Doomsday Clock.  It isn’t really a clock, but a visual representation of how close we are, at any time, to an atomic and later nuclear war.  Midnight is doomsday, the closer to midnight, the more serious the threat.  It was closest at 11:58 in 1953. In the United Methodist Church we know that a schism is possible. We are not, as our name suggests, United.  We have deep divisions over a number of issues, and homosexuality is at the top of that list. Today our Schism Clock jumped, in my mind, from 11:45 to 11:57. My Local Church Committee voted, with a margin of a single vote…

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The Trust Clause, part II

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May 15, 2016 – I had dinner last night with some other members of the East Ohio delegation after we all had a busy and at times frantic day in committees trying to get through our legislation.  They had heard the news about the Trust Clause but they all wanted to know the answer to the same question:  what was the logic behind the vote? The discussion came from two camps and while I don’t agree with either, I understand both and was pleased to see that both came from missional perspectives…

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Reflections on worship

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May 16, 2016 – As I went to bed Saturday night I knew I needed to worship Sunday morning.  But I also knew that five days of more than 1,000 United Methodists was at least enough, so Google and I discussed my options.  I found a promising Presbyterian Church half a mile from my hotel. As I got to the corner where the church is located, I noticed that the doors were standing open.  Open Doors, a good sign.  On my way into the sanctuary I was greeted by not one but two associate pastors who welcomed me and asked a bit about myself.  When I told them why I was in town they smiled and indicated that in a few weeks…

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I protest the protests!

Rick Wolcott, East Ohio Annual Conference

Rick Wolcott, East Ohio Annual Conference

May 17, 2016 – General Conference has become known for many things:  incredible worship, a diverse audience, the chance to rub elbows with United Methodist thinkers and authors with names like Schnase, Hamilton and Slaughter. And in recent years, protests have been added to this list of things to be expected. I knew I was in for protests, but had no idea they would look like this…

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A call to conversation

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May 18, 2016 – In yesterday’s post I lamented the protests I had seen the day before.  They were, I wrote, unnecessary because General Conference bends over backward to make sure everyone has a chance to have their voice heard. In a world of social media I had enough “likes” and affirmative comments to know I wasn’t completely off base. But I heard another voice, one from a place further left than I saying that this statement was a joke and that the LGBTQ voice was not adequately heard…

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An opportunity squandered

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May 18, 2016 – At the request of the General Conference, the Council of Bishops came back this morning with a proposal for a path forward.  They proposed that…

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Lessons from the bike lane

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May 19, 2016 -Each morning and most evenings I walk the mile and a half or so from my hotel to the Portland Convention Center.  I zig zag through downtown streets, go along the East Esplanade, an old industrial dock along the Willamette River.  Then I take the Steel Bridge across river then up the ramps and stairs to the Convention Center.  The photo above was taken between the river and convention center and roughly shows how busy it is in the morning. The weather has been great and a 30 minute or so hike is great when I’m going to be camped out in a folding chair for the entire day…

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Save a church for me to serve

Photo Credit: United Methodist News Service

Photo Credit: United Methodist News Service

May 20, 2016 – Wednesday morning before we were to consider the Bishops’ proposal of a way forward we did something different.  We prayed together.  No, praying together wasn’t that unusual, in last ten days we prayed more than an unprepared college student taking an Organic Chemistry final. We were asked to pray with folks we don’t usually talk to…

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Post script

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May 25, 2016 – I gave myself five days before writing this post as an intentional time of reflection.  As I sat in the Portland Airport (the picture above is me waiting for my plane) I was exhausted, demoralized and skeptical.  After a rigorous schedule of naps, I am no longer exhausted.  I remain, to some extent, demoralized and skeptical but at the same time have added hopeful and encouraged. Those things don’t all seem to go together, do they?  Yeah, well that’s pretty much General Conference in a nutshell…

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Final reflections on General Conference

A "Dancing Cross" a gift to delegates of General Conference from the Korea Peace Initiative.  Photo by East Ohio Annual Conference.

A “Dancing Cross” a gift to delegates of General Conference from the Korea Peace Initiative. Photo by East Ohio Annual Conference.

May 26, 2016 – Some thoughts on General Conference that I never got around to writing about… The diversity was amazing.  We had delegates from five continents (India and Antarctica were not represented) and we had seven official languages.  Live proceedings were translated into these five languages and we all had headphones like in the U.N.  At one point Bishop Streiff decided to preside in French, even though he spoke English, just for fun I suppose.  But all of this diversity is expensive, word is we spent about $2 million in translation services. I was frustrated with the delegate from the North Katanga Conference in the Congo because he kept coming to the microphone with questions.  But then I remembered sitting in on the Liberia Annual Conference a couple of years ago…

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Final reflections on Portland

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May 26, 2016 – Some thoughts about Portland that I never got around to writing about… Portland reminds me of Austin, Texas or Denver, Colorado.  It’s a city that feels young, lots of millennials out on their bikes or walking, dining at some of the non-snootiest places I’ve seen and generally being happy. VooDoo Doughnuts really are that good and unfortunately located between my hotel and the Convention Center. There are lots of homeless people in Portland and…

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