Cindy Gregorson on faith and life

Posts tagged ‘religion’

Ironies Abound

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.

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A Global Church

General Conference Day Three

It takes time and effort to be a global church.  I am sitting in legislative committee today.  We have people who speak a variety of languages and come from a variety of backgrounds.  Just moving through the organizational process took significant time because we needed to make sure our translators had time to interpret so everyone could participate fully.  We spent a generous amount of time to introduce the members of the committee to each other so we would have a sense of who is sitting in the circle, where each comes from and some of their story.  It was important foundational work for building relationships in order to work together.

I am person who likes to think fast, talk fast and move fast.  There were moments I was frustrated by how long everything was taking.  But I have been on the other side of the coin as well where I have been the non-primary language speaker, and the needing the hospitality of the group in order to be able to contribute my voice fully.

I believe this is one of the key challenges we face as a United Methodist Church.  The world is moving fast, and we, as a church, are having a hard time keeping up with changes sweeping across the landscape.  I long for a church that is more nimble, agile, and flexible which requires thinking on your feet and taking action without having study committee after study committee. And yet, if we truly are going to be a global church with full participation and not just in name only, then we need to take the time to listen, to build community and to bring our varied perspectives and history.

I don’t know how to reconcile these two.  Many days I feel like we don’t have the luxury of time.  If we do not make significant radical change, I am not sure we will still be here.  The aging and shrinking of our congregations is going to create a financial crisis that is heading toward us like a speeding bullet.  And the implications of that is not just for the US church, but will have ramifications world wide.  But without time, to thoughtfully and prayerfully discern God’s leading and the building of the community, what kind of church will be be and how will we decide well what changes to make?