We are now four days into our 2012 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. I'll admit, I've never paid this much attention before. I think part of that is because in Summer of 2008, the last time General Conference occurred, I was entirely secure in the standing of the UMC. It'd been around for a long time, and things were going great, right? I was a seminary student at the time and had seen the data on the decline of mainline denominations in America, but I'm an optimist, and that problem was really too big for me to grab ahold of when I was worried about going to class and learning and practicing the craft of worship leadership.
A lot has changed since then.
For starters, I've gotten married and had a kid. That has changed my perspective significantly. I'm more concerned than ever that the church I've grown up in be the church that my son lives in to. My wife also works in youth ministry at the conference level in the UMC. We love this church and feel it has so much potential to be God's love incarnate and transform the world.
Secondly, maybe the biggest news to me, is my calling to pastoral ministry. I don't mean ordination as an elder of the UMC, but likely a deacon, mostly the realization that worship is intended to be one's whole life not just an hour on Sunday morning.
In that spirit, here are some observations on some of the big things happening at GC2012
If you're a twitter fan, and a Methodist, you've probably seen a twitter explosion in the last few days, in the coolest way. The UMC has really taken on social media and is using it as Methodists should, as a connectional system. Making connections is the strength of our denomination, and the great uses of Twitter and Facebook, plus livestreaming of main conference events really makes people feel like they are there participicating. My wife and I have been nerding out every night watching the plenary sessions and closing worship. It's been cool. I myself have already made some great new tweeps. Really good stuff. But it's clear one of the definiciencies of this conference is the lack of inclusion of young people (young adults on down to youth) ...
If you've been on Twitter at all following #GC2012, you've probably seen #GCYP bounced around as well. The hashtag was created for "General Conference Young People". It's been a great tool to spread relevant news to young Methodists as well as make connections between people. My hope, though, is that somebody higher up than me and at the GC is checking this stuff out, collating the data and opinions, and thinking about what myself and my fellow young Methodists think about the proceedings.
Last night, composer, teacher, and worship leader Mark Miller took a stand against what he and others took to be bullying behavior in holy conferencing toward those in the LGBT community, of which he is a member. He asked for a point of personal privilege, for which he was 'out of order' when he asked everyone to stand with him in opposition to bullying. He then asked the presiding Bishop to pray in a very beautiful moment ... Thus began #standwithmark and #standingwithmark. I stand with him. And hopefully the rest of the UMC will too. Christ calls us to love our neighbors.
One theme has popped up again and again in conversations around the GC this year ... The same people are always going to the GC. There are people that have been delegates from their conferences for the last 8, 12, even 20 or more years. Is there any wonder that we're voting down the same issues to progress the denomination again and again? We complain there aren't enough young people included at the GC ... are they even aware they have a chance to go? "Term limits" or limiting the number of times and individual to attend the GC is one solution tossed about. I agree with it.
That's all for now! I'm having fun nerding out and watching people work together at the GC and on the internet. Are you?