In general, it’s easier to enjoy the sausage when you don’t know what goes into it. I suppose that’s true of United Methodism in some ways. Listening to the wrangling on the floor of General Conference over the past two days, I feel I’m getting the ingredients list on the sausage. I could go into details about the good (the worship and Bishop Palmer) the bad (nitpicking on Robert’s Rules) and the ugly (all the rumors I’ve heard about stalling tactics), but that’s really not what is rattling around in my head at the end of this second day of General Conference.
Instead, I want to ponder a more basic question: Why are we here at GC?
I know the rhetoric, this multi-million dollar gathering of Methodists is happening because it is where we approve budgets, plans, resolutions for the global church. We are all together to do the business of church.
But why? Why does any individual delegate bother with this at all?
It’s not intended as a rhetorical question. Every person who comes has her own hopes for GC2016, her own plans, her own dreams of what will come out of it. For some, the goal is inclusion. For others, changing the structure to reflect the population more (or maybe less). Maybe it’s to push for accountability on investments. To pursue social issues. To demand accountability and faithfulness of pastors and bishops. To… to… to….
So many goals and reasons, and yet, all of this is so much excrement if we aren’t here first and foremost to do the will of God.
Of course, most of us think we know God’s will (at least in part), and many are here to help enforce this will upon others who just don’t know it as well as us. Maybe they don’t believe the Bible the same way, or don’t have the same modern revelation, or they just like a translation which says something we consider ridiculous. Whatever it is, we think WE know God’s will and so we are mandated to press that will upon others.
Bishop Palmer’s episcopal address was particularly prophetic because he addressed this so deftly when he explained the word he had pondered for so long as he approached conference was ‘humility’.
Humility demands we abandon our own agendas. It warns us to be cautious about how well we know God’s will. When we come to God in humility, we cease to pray for our own ends and we instead pray for God’s will to be done. Jesus even went through laying aside his own preferred agenda to submit to this. We may not know what that actually looks like, but we always know it is right and we can trust it.
So, this is what I would challenge everyone:
Don’t pray for an agenda.
Don’t pray one ‘side’ wins.
Don’t pray for a vote to pass or fail.
Let’s try to stop with language which makes us into us/them, the divisive words which makes it about winning/losing. Instead, let’s all come to the common ground upon which we may all solidly stand, and let’s pray with faith in the power of God, the presence of Jesus, and the persuasion of the Holy Spirit.
Not my will but thine be done.