I am at the airport as I write this. I will not be there for day 10 of General Conference but I do want to offer some reflections as I prepare to leave and head home.
1) I loved Portland. Their mass transit is great…it was frequent, easy to navigate and got you most any place you wanted to go. It is a walkable city. I got over 10,000 steps everyday which is a good thing because the food was pretty amazing as well. I ate my fair share of desserts, donuts and ice cream! People were so friendly. I am glad I had the chance to visit what is fast becoming a mecca for young adults which is causing some consternation among the locals because housing prices are shooting up, homelessness is on the rise and the city has growing pains…so they have their own challenges, but overall a very livable city.
2) Minnesota was well represented here…from the strong, steady leadership of Bishop Ough as the President of the Council, to an engaged, informed delegation who took their responsibilities very seriously. We had people leading through offering interpretation services, serving as marshal and recorder, chairing committees, on the Judicial Council, being host team volunteers, speaking in videos, working the political processes, reporting the news and being commissioned and consecrated as missionaries and deaconesses. You can be proud of the people you sent here. They showcased who we are in Minnesota. Passionate, caring , thoughtful leaders. We may be a small conference, but we are making an impact!
3) We continue to deepen our relationships across the Episcopal Area. Our commununications team consisted of Doreen and Dave from the Dakotas and Christa from Minnesota. They were phenomenonal and putting out some of the best stuff that I saw during my time here. They embodied collaboration and team work…and what a work ethic….they put in some very long hours to bring you fresh and interesting coverage from a DAK/MN perpsective. It happened that the Dakotas and Minnesota delegation were seated at the same tables, so friendships grew (and dancing if you saw my Facebook pic) and we held a joint area dinner. It is great to have partners in ministry!
4) Our host team is off to a great start. Jim and Carol Haun got here before it all began and are staying through the weekend to see it all wrap up. Gail Johnson and Kent Peterson and Sheilah Kyburz worked multiple shifts as volunteers and took copious notes of what worked and what we need to figure out and how to make it even better. The word on the street from the General Confernece staff is that they have never seen a future host team that was there to learn to dive in so completely and made themselves so available to work and help. They are excited to come to Minneapolis and work with us. We will need 1200 volunteers to be great hosts (Portland set the bar high!) so put May 5-15, 2020 on your calendar and come help us demonstrate Minnnesota and Dakotas hospitality and our desire to create a sanctuary where the whole church can come together to be the church and pay attention to God’s leading.
5) Yesterday, as we ended, we celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the Full Rights of Clergy Women. That historic action occurred the last time General Conference was held in Minnapolis. 1956. It took 20 years for women to be seated as delegates to General Conference. That occurred in 1976 in Portland. Breakthrough moments. So no coincidence I think that we had a breakthrough moment here in Portland again this year when the church agreed to talk, really talk about how we might find a way forward as a diverse, world-wide church, and we empowered our bishops, our spiritual leaders, to lead us as a church on this matter. I fully expect something as radical and significant to happen in Minneapolis in 2020. We are not just a flyover zone! The Spirit is moving here and we will be ready to welcome all the people called United Methodist in 2020 for another historic gathering, and in the meantime we will continue our ministry of offering Christ in all ways to all people, showing the world what it means to be a people of open hearts, engaged minds and dismantled doors (to quote Bishop Yambasu.)
Thank you for giving me the privilege to bear witness to the events of this week and to offer you my insights and perspeective. It was a great learning experience. Yesterday, the two rows behind my seat during the morning worship were filled with Global Mission Fellows…all young people, all wearing t-shirts proclaiming Generation Transformation. Becuase of them, and the many others I met like them here in Portland, I leave with hope! God is clearly calling new leaders for a new time, and I am so blessed to be a part of the new thing God is doing.