General Conference: What is God trying to teach us?

“Mature spirituality, or wisdom, insists that we hold out for meaning instead of settling for mere answers.” This was written by the Franciscan teacher, writer, and priest Richard Rohr in his book Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi. The above quote struck me as I read Rohr during my recent vacation. Then, it made my mind start to wander to the denomination I serve in and its upcoming General Conference. (No, I do not recommend thinking about General Conference on vacation.)

General Conference is the legislative body of the United Methodist Church that gathers its delegates from around the world every four years. I have never attended GC before, but anyone in the Methodist world knows about the struggles this body has had in its most recent sessions, especially with issues surrounding homosexuality.

While I don’t claim to be an expert in the politics or policies of the church, I do know that everyone is looking for the answer. How do we live together in one denomination that disagrees on marriage, on who should be ordained, and how pastors who break the “covenant” should be punished or not? Should the denomination be split or can a compromise be found that satisfies all sides? I know, it sounds like politics and it is.

Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions. Everyone is seeking the coveted answer. Fr. Richard Rohr would argue that this is not mature spirituality. We are all looking for answers, when we should be looking for meaning. What is God is trying to teach us in our “righteous” battling?  Are we to learn how we are to treat the “other” whether that person is from either side of any issue? Are we to learn how to really love again?

Pope Francis recently quoted our own Father Wesley when welcoming an ecumenical Methodist group to Rome. The Pontiff said, quoting Wesley, “If we cannot yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike.” Obviously he was speaking to this joint gathering of Roman Catholics and Methodists, but was the pope really speaking to our denomination as a whole using the words of our own founder? I think he was.

“If we cannot yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike,” Wesley wrote. If we have lost our love in the United Methodist Church, then we have lost our ability to work through our challenges and we cannot claim to have any mature spirituality or wisdom.

What is the answer to the challenges that we face as a denomination in our age and culture? I do not know, but if we are to survive we need to find meaning again as a church. Maybe we can listen to the Pope speaking to us quoting our founder and “love alike”. Then maybe the world will know we are Christians by our love and not our doctrine. General Conference won’t save the world or even our church, but if we begin and end and journey with love then we might find the meaning we’re actually seeking.

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2 thoughts on “General Conference: What is God trying to teach us?

  1. I like what you are saying, Matt. If we follow Jesus, then we will love like him. However, Judaism also had doctrines. Nowhere did Jesus disavow scripture. He said that it cannot be broken. We can argue like “lawyers,” or “doctors of the Law,” but miss the point of the Law of Moses, that we live together in healthy community under the sovereignty of God. Because Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law, we must ask what his intentions for us were. I am pained by our conflict. But, I would be pained even more, if we cannot at least treat one another with respect.

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  2. Hey Matt, how about coming on as a guest on the Hoosier United Methodist Podcast to give voice to your blog posts. Check it out http://www.hoosierunitedmethodist.com or on itunes, then email me if your interested. Brad Miller.
    hoosierunitedmethodist@gmail.com.
    Here’s the itunes link:
    https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hoosier-united-methodist-podcast/id911422451?mt=2

    I also have the The United Methodist Podcast you might be interested in. http://www.unitedmethodistpodcast.com

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