As I was dropping our children off at school, One Day by Matisyahu came up on shuffle on the playlist to which we were listening. They headed off for their school day and I drove home with tears rolling down my cheeks. Here is the music video:
The song evoked for me memories of time with our children, wanting the best for them in the future, echoes of grief from my Dad’s death, and a deep desire for peace – especially in light of the ferocious conflict at General Conference.
When the tears came I was first surprised, then grateful. They were cleansing, almost refreshing, and helped restore some places of my soul that I had not been aware were stuck.
This morning, I met with a group of clergy colleagues in what is a regularly scheduled gathering. Today we shared, reflected, grieved, considered the future and talked about what and how to best share with our local congregations the events of General Conference. I shared an image of the disorientation that I am feeling in response to the passing of the Traditional Plan…
It’s like I am driving our minivan down the highway. I am making progress toward my destination. Everything seems to be running pretty well. We are on the way. I stop to refill the fuel tank and pick up some snacks. As I get out of the vehicle and start to head inside the convenience store, I take a look back and suddenly, it’s not my the minivan. It turns out that it is a truck.
Wait a minute… What?!
I thought I was driving toward a destination and all of a sudden, I realize that I have been driving inside a completely different vehicle. What happened to the familiar surroundings of the vehicle with which I was familiar? What have I been driving all this time?
The re-affirmation of the Traditional Plan three times over – in the prioritization, in legislative committee, and in the plenary session of General Conference 2019 is confusing. I thought that I have been part of a denomination that is moving toward full inclusion throughout the entire life of the church – albeit slowly and hesitatingly. Yet, the evidence of the voting demonstrates that this is not true – at least not on a denominational level. It is frustrating to find that the United Methodist Church turned away from greater inclusion. Yet, it also illuminates the truth: There is a need action in new ways, with creative approaches, and bolder vision. I don’t yet know what this looks like, however I want to help figure out what’s next for a more inclusive church.
It is difficult to make sense of the events of the day. The passing of the Traditional Plan was disorienting, heart-rending, and continues to be heavy on my mind. The church that has been home for my entire life feels a little less like home.
The votes clearly reflect the reality of where the church is at the moment. The votes were around 60-40 or 55-45 for many of the matters – a denomination divided. We are divided. There is no way around that.
At this point, it is difficult to see what the days ahead will hold. It could be a significant number of supporters of the Traditional Plan still decide to leave. It could be that the work of reformation continues within the United Methodist Church (this is almost certain). It could be time for the birth of a new progressive denomination. I don’t know…
For now, I plan to get some sleep and get up tomorrow ready to continue tending to the work of God in my community and across the connection.
Well, I was not expecting the day of conferencing to go as it did. It was disheartening to see the Traditional Plan receive enough votes in legislative committee to go on the plenary. The disaffiliation legislation is interesting. If you asked me six months ago about the wisdom of a “graceful exit” for churches and I would have said that it was a bad idea. There is value in staying together. Of course, that was in a world where it seemed that the One Church Plan was likely to be the plan that moved forward. That the One Church Plan would pass is much less likely at the moment – as it did not receive enough votes to make it out of committee. So, that happened…
Legislative Committee as a Whole
It has been interesting to see the work proceed with a legislative committee of the whole. My first take on that was that it would be laborious and unhelpful. I don’t know that it has been any more laborious than usual, and it has turned out to be helpful. This method of addressing the legislation has removed some of the uncertainty of what will happen in the plenary that usually exists in General Conference.
Points of Order / Information
It is fascinating to see people use a point of order or point of information as a way to prioritize their time at the microphone and then turn it into something else entirely.
“Oh, did I press that button? Well, now that I’m at the microphone…”
I want to offer a presumption of grace and at the same time know that parliamentary maneuvering is part of the fabric of legislative gatherings of this size.
I am trying not to get overwrought about things at the moment, as the actual work will take place tomorrow. Though, with the legislative body and the plenary body being the same group of people it seems clear the direction things will move. 24 hours from now and much more will be clearer. Well, probably clearer, though not necessarily.
My continued gratitude to delegates for their offerings of strength, emotion, speaking, and listening.
This morning I led worship at Berryton United Methodist Church and preached a sermon about being in connection with one another – Moved to Connect. It is the second in a three part series, The Movement Continues. It is focused on who we are as United Methodist Christians. During our worship service, we lifted up the delegates and work of the General Conference in prayer at both of our worship services. After leaving the church building, I visited one of our congregants who just entered hospice care and then it was time to head home. In between all of these, I was listening and watching the live video stream of General Conference.
Church and Technology
Each time the church gathers with voting devices of any sort, there is some time that is taken making sure that everyone knows how and is able to vote correctly. My first response was, “Why can’t we move through this any faster?” However, I quickly caught myself with the reminder of how important it is that each person is able to understand the tools that are available to them before they are able to use them effectively. Training and practice to prepare will always be helpful in making progress later.
One Legislative Committee
One of the interesting aspects of this General Conference is that there is a legislative body of the entire body. Most often, delegates are divided among a variety of legislative committees which address legislation to be brought back to the entire General Conference. It was surprising to see a non-bishop leading on the livestream, though it seems likely that the Rev. Joe Harris could become a candidate for bishop.
I found the voting method to prioritize legislation to be genius. A vote for high or low priority for each piece of legislation with the results being held until the end was a bit mind-numbing on the live video stream, however it was an efficient way of getting of sense of a sense of the body of delegates regarding the entire set of legislation. As a supporter of full inclusion of all people in the life and ministry of the church, it was disheartening to see the One Church Plan ranked as a lower priority than the Traditional Plan.
I was puzzled by the vote to adjourn with nearly 45 minutes remaining until the scheduled adjournment for the day. After dealing with the legislation from Wespath, it was suggested that it would be best to wait until the morning to take up the Traditional Plan. On the one hand, probably so. It was nearing the end of the day and there will be a great deal of speaking against and for, amending, substituting, and other legislative maneuvering. On the other hand, probably not. There is less than 18 hours remaining on the schedule for the work to be completed.
In either case, it seemed that it was time for supporters of both the One Church Plan and Traditional Plan to take in the votes of the day and make plans for the best approach to move ahead tomorrow.
I am grateful for the time, effort, and dedication of all the delegates.
I continue to pray for wisdom, clarity, peace, and endurance.
This week I am Denver for the BOM Mid Quad Training Event. The event is designed around the theme of Excellence in Ministry and is designed to help annual conferences make progress on the systems contribute to recruiting, supporting, nurturing, and holding clergy accountable. I am here in my role as Treasurer and member of the Call team of the Great Plains Board of Ordained Ministry.
I had to put my seminary brain back on to catch up with Randy Maddox as he began his talk yesterday. I appreciated the depth of his presentation about the historical and theological underpinning for excellence in ministry in the United Methodist Church. It is pretty incredible to be in the same room with Bishops, cabinets and BOM teams from across the nation. I am looking forward to the rest of the event and bringing back new possibilities for sustaining and expanding excellence in ministry in the Great Plains.
There are at least three different possibilities for the life of a congregation:
Vital – A vital congregation that is one that is creating places for new people to love God and love neighbor. The ministry and impact of the congregation is expanding.
Viable – A viable congregation is one that continues to exist at the same ministry level and opportunities as years past.
Inviable – An inviable congregation is one whose financial and mission reality is not sustainable.
The goal for congregations could be to move from one level to another – inviable to viable and viable to vital. Vital congregations can look for ways to expand their ministry and help move other congregations toward vitality.
Today was my first time to speak on the floor of annual conference. While it was not exactly what came out, this is what I prepared:
My name is Andrew Conard. I am a clergy member of the annual conference.
I am currently serving at Church of the Resurrection in the Kansas City area and will begin serving at First United Methodist Church in El Dorado beginning July 1.
I speak in favor of forming the Great Plains Annual Conference.
Since its statehood more than 150 years ago, Kansas has been a place of action, a place where people could rally around a cause. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, settling the untamed prairie or recovering from disaster, Kansans mobilized around the cause and demonstrated great leadership abilities.
This is the time to demonstrate leadership in the United Methodist Church on the Great Plains. The annual conference exists to equip the local church for ministry. Becoming one annual conference in Kansas and Nebraska creates the best opportunity for the conference to fulfill its purpose on the Great Plains so that all of our local churches can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Since I was first appointed to serve in Kansas in 2006, I have prayed every week for three things: the mission and vision of the local church where I serve, renewal within the United Methodist Church and spiritual revival across the state. I believe that forming the Great Plains Annual Conference is the next faithful step in our life together of living God’s dream for us as United Methodists in Nebraska and Kansas.
Members of my family are active in the United Methodist churches in Norwich, Plains, Sterling, Burdett and First-Hutchinson. My father is a United Methodist pastor and his father was a United Methodist pastor. The Kansas West Annual Conference is my home.
The month before we began to serve under appointment in Kansas, my wife and I were driving to Colorado on our honeymoon and we made a point to visit two of the churches where my granddad was appointed – the United Methodist Churches in Tribune and Towner on the Kansas / Colorado border. It was a blessing to step into those sacred spaces. I am proud of the United Methodist lay and clergy people who have come before me and been a part of faithful and fruitful ministry all across this Annual Conference for decades. This annual conference is part of who I am.
The Great Plains Annual Conference will be a change. There is no way around it. I believe that this change is the next faithful step in our life together as United Methodists on the Great Plains. I pray that we will continue together in faithful and fruitful ministry.
One hundred years from now, I want the people of the United Methodist Church in Nebraska and Kansas to look back and remember 2012 as a milestone in our lives together when courageous United Methodist took action that fanned the flames of spiritual revival across the Great Plains.
I urge you to vote in favor of forming the Great Plains Annual Conference.
At the end of the #dreamUMC chat last night, I volunteered to collect hashtags for United Methodist conferences this year. I hope you will find it helpful to stay connected across the denomination.
Will you please help me complete this list? Please send me an @reply on Twitter @andrewconard or leave a comment on this post with dates, clarification on hashtags, link if it is being live streamed or additional conferences.