I find the General Conference to be full of ironies. Here is the most recent one. We are in a plenary session aboout celebrating our ecumenical relationships. We are lifting up with pride our relationships with other faith traditions and how we want to be at the table with others who are on a common journey with us. The irony came in that in the minutes before this session a motion was made to include visitors in the holy conferencing that has been taking place at this annual conference. There have been three scheduled holy conferencing sessions where people can talk with one another about key issues facing our church. They have been for delegates only. The person making the motion stated that the conversation has been rich and challenging and should be expanded to include the many other people present at the General Conference who are also passionate about making disciples of Jesus Christ who bring wisdom and experience that could enrich and deepen our conversation. The motion was defeated without any debate. And we just moved right on to celebrate our ecumenical relationships like nothing signifcant just happened.
So what is up with that? What does it cost us to invite everyone who wants to participate in a conversation that does not require a vote? Is it about preserving privilege and power? Is it about not wanting to listen to other voices? And how can we not see the irony of saying we are communion with other faith traditions but we don’t want to be in conversation with our brothers and sisters who are wearing a nametag other than delegate.
All day I have been reflecting on, for a variety of reasons, how we value and include one another. At one point I was witnessing a silent march of people who have felt excluded by the church. At another point, it was me feeling discounted as I was in a conversation. We do it so easliy. We dismiss one another if we don’t like how they think, if we feel for whatever reason they are not one of us, or we perceive their opinion to be not worth considering. I am feeling the divides most deeply today: age, gender, race, culture, theological perspectives, geographical location, sexual orientation, and more…on a day when the official proclamation has been about our pan-methodist and ecumenical relationships. Oh yes, the ironies abound, and we have a long way to go church.