General Conference – Day 4

Despite all that has been said and all that is happened Jesus is still Lord! The final day of General Conference in St. Louis was as emotional and stressful as I suspected. For those who have never been to or watched a General Conference this was about like the past 3 General Conferences in terms of human behavior.

Hurt people say hurtful things and act in hurtful ways. I am so proud of my brothers and sisters who stayed the course on the high road in conversation and chose not to trade insult for insult. We are all broken people in need of the great love of God. May the grace and love of God prevail in us all. All kinds of people are in pain, straight, gay, American, International, clergy, lay and even those watching us from outside the United Methodist Church. Despite our pain the love of God is bigger and mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ remains our mission and call.

Among the legislative decisions that were approved included: 1) The Traditional Plan being approved and the One Church Plan dying for lack of majority support; 2) The language around marriage being a covenant God between a man and a woman was affirmed, 3) Bishops and Board of Ministries must abide by our canon law on all ethics including our biblical based sexual ethics; 4) UMC Clergy cannot conduct same sex wedding services; 5) Bishops cannot arbitrarily dismiss complaints and there is now specific definition around what constitutes a “just resolution”; and 6) The Taylor petition for a gracious exit was approved but because we were not afforded an opportunity to amend it on the floor of the conference to include a 2/3 vote of each annual conference will likely render it unconstitutional.

All people are of sacred worth and welcome in our church. All people are availed the transforming work of the Holy Spirit and God’s grace to be transformed into the image of God. God desires to redeem, transform, and sanctify us all. May the Lord have his way with us and His Church!

 

General Conference Day 3

Jesus is Lord of all! Jesus is Lord of the Church and Jesus is my Lord! Be encouraged and remain strong and courageous and do not grow weary in doing good today. The topic today is the Authority of Scripture…just like all the days before in this UMC General Conference.

A summary of yesterday’s legislative committee session is that the Traditional Plan passed with 55% of the vote. It will come to the plenary floor today for a vote but will have several amendments offered to bring it in line with the latest Judicial Council ruling. The One Church Plan was not supported yesterday with only 45% of the vote but will resurface today as a part of the Minority Report. The Connectional Conference Plan which was not supported in a vote yesterday will also resurface today as a part of a minority report assembled by Bill Stikes and Lathem Postell who have expressed an interest in offering it as middle ground. The reality is unless something unusual happens the only plan that has the votes to be approved is the Traditional Plan.

Two versions of the gracious exit passed yesterday, the Taylor version and the Boyette version. They will come before the plenary for vote today. Both will also need to be amended to pass JC review. The Boyette plan is the plan that makes it least costly for a congregation or a clergy person to exit because of conscience.

There will be much resistance again by diffusion, distraction, filibuster, etc. But remember, Jesus is Lord and Jesus has got this and will lead us to a place of truth and glory as we trust Him and follow the Holy Spirit. James reminds us that we should, “count it all joy” when tests, trials, and resistance come for this is a part of the price of following Jesus.

Finally, we love our lgbtqi brothers and sisters. We love everyone who is hurting including the straight, gay, black, white, American, and international brothers and sisters. God loves us all! The greatest commandment was to Love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. And the second was to love neighbor as ourselves. May we be faithful in keeping this priority today. Pray Eph 6 over all!

Blessings and Peace.

General Conference Day 2

Jesus Is Lord and that was refreshing all day long in Day 2. Remember yesterday I said that the foundational dilemma before us is the authority of Scripture. This morning I read a piece written by my longtime friend Adam Hamilton who I love and respect. He states that he has studied the Scriptures for the last 40 years and he believes the One Church Plan is the best way forward. I respect that but disagree with it wholeheartedly.

I have also studied the scriptures for the last 40 years, believe that the are divinely inspired, and gives us clear instructions on marriage and sexuality. Only the Traditional Plan protects the authority of scripture and continues the great apostolic role of the church of God.  The Traditional Plan received the highest number of votes of any of the plans and thus will be before us today.

The agenda today is a result of a prioritized vote from Day 2. A fair and equitable pensions petition was the top priority and was approved on Day 2. The next agenda items per the prioritized vote are the Traditional Plan, two legislative pieces around a gracious exit for local churches and clergy, and then the One Church Plan. There is much resistance against the Traditional Plan and this is why we are clearly in need of prayer for wisdom and discernment. There will be opposition, stalling, and filibuster.

The worship has been excellent and I was especially blessed today to hear Rev. Ken Livingston preach at the Good News breakfast which occurs every morning at 6:30 am at the Marriott Grand ballroom. It has been a standing room only revival gathering!

Finally, I pray love and grace over all who are fearful, anxious, and hurting. I affirm God’s grace, love and transformation for all people. Thank you for praying Ephesians 6 and the whole armor of God over us today!

General Conference Day 1

Jesus is Lord! The day begins within these 3 words which is the apostolic proclamation of the Church. For many months I have been praying the Lordship of Jesus as we have prepared for these days of prayer, fasting, and decision making in the United Methodist Church. I am blessed and honored to be one of the 864 delegates elected by my peers to represent the North Georgia Conference.

We have begun the morning with a wonderful worship and prayer with our brothers and sisters from across the world and heard an outstanding sermon from the Rev. Dr. Jerry Kulah of Liberia who reminded us that God, not money, is our provision. The banquet room at the hotel was set up for 600, but 800 showed up. Jesus is Lord!

We have worshiped and prayed as 864 global delegates who all are seeking the will and way of God in our church. We have prayed together and joined in the beautiful singing of songs like, “How Great Thou Art” in 4 languages. We will worship and pray this whole day long and today will be the beginning of a prayer movement that we believe will create a new awakening of God’s people.

We have also been at our best as Methodists as a movement. And yet we remain confronted with the reality that we are not united in our view of the authority of scripture. We confess that there is not unity around God’s teaching on marriage, sexuality, leadership, and the sanctity of life.

Many sustainable arguments and opinions would demand that we see that the issues are more problematic and complex, but the reality that remains before is is the Bible our guide and mandate in being followers of Jesus Christ. In the words of Dr. Billy Abraham, “if we trade truth for unity then we shall have neither.”

Pray for us that we would do no harm, do all the good we can, and stay in love with God. But more importantly pray that we would be faithful to God and the Word of God given to us by His mighty hand. Jesus is Lord of the Church!

A Sabbath Rest

Some said it couldn’t be done but I have just completed by God’s grace a 90 day break from blogging and select social media! It was indeed a little trying at first when my bent towards wanting to write, post, and respond with my two cents worth kept tempting me to jump back in.
But the good Lord gave me grace and peace to hold out and a lovely trip to Italy and Greece with my wife and great friends really helped me disengage and cease from my labors in posting and checking media. From Leviticus 16:31 and Hebrews 4:9 we are assured that in God’s brilliant design there is a Sabbath rest for us.
Two things I experienced during the last 90 days really stand out. The first one is the multi-faceted benefits of taking a break. My mind after a few weeks finally quit racing and I began to relax and feel joy, peace, and tranquility. I would not have been aware that I was stuck in a hyper-vigilance mode that had become my normal for far too long had God not led me to rest. The second thing is that sights, sounds, flavors, and feelings become far more rich and brilliant when we slow down and simply become aware of the beauty of a baby’s cry, an ocean sunset, and the joy of having family come home for the holidays.
Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to reset and reload in this small way. It was like a specific fast from something that seemed so small in comparison to my overall work but made such a difference in my mindset and outlook. Thank you Jesus!