Today is the first day of what is probably one of the most watched events in United Methodism—General Conference… now for many Methodists, General Conference is this thing that just happens and not a lot of people pay a whole lot of attention. But for church polity freaks like me, it will be 11 days of incessant twitter following, obsessively reading reports and blogs, and most importantly, a whole lot of prayer.
Now, I am not a super prayer type person… I see prayer as this constant conversation that I am having in my head with God, not something that I take a concerted effort to carve out time to, you know, get down on my knees kind of thing. It’s just not my way… I talk to God in the car, in the shower, in the nooks and crannies of my day, but I don’t usually set apart a time to be ‘in prayer.’
But as General Conference is upon us and I am seeing and hearing all of the conversation around the full inclusion of the LGBTQI community into the UMC, I am finding that my heart is breaking over and over as I see so much hurt and anger and division within the church. It is hard to wrap one’s heart and head around the future of the UMC in a time like this. I struggle as someone who sees full inclusion as the right thing for the church—to be the place where all people are welcome, valued, and can make a difference in the world—when many in my denomination don’t see this as who we are as Methodist. How does one stay in a denomination that can’t be Christ-like to all people? And yet, leaving the UMC doesn’t seem like the right thing either. I am United Methodist. I so get Wesleyan grace. I truly believe in the church’s desire to balance a life of piety and social responsibility. It is in my nature and it is why I claim this church as where I want to do ministry. And so I am torn—between a pain for a church that can’t quite get it and a desire to be in a church where my heart truly lies.
And so as General Conference goes on for the next 11 days, rather than get super frustrated or depressed or irritated about all the things that are happening thousands of miles away that may affect this church that I love so much, I think what I can do is watch and pray. And not just the ‘pray throughout the day’ kind of pray. But a dedicated, focused, specific, (maybe even on my knees) kind of pray. Prayer that reminds me of who is really in charge. Prayer that helps to focus my energy and my frustration and pain for something that I have no control over. Prayer that is desperately crying for a way forward that finds some kind of healing for both a church and the many, many people who have experienced pain and brokenness from this whole thing. And perhaps, somehow we will find that way in the midst of all of the politicking and positioning, the lobbying and legislation, to find God’s peace and vision for who the UMC should be in the world today.