For anyone reading this who isn't ensconced in the weird world of United Methodism, this week begins the United Methodist Church's General Conference, taking place this year in Portland, OR. This gathering takes place once every four years, and brings delegates from all over the world to discuss various matters of church doctrine and policy.
I was at the last General Conference, in 2012, and it was a very difficult experience. To be honest, in hindsight it was a questionable decision for me to attend. I was still recovering at the time from a series of hospitalizations for mental health reasons, and the gathering is stressful and discouraging for even those in the best of mental health. Which I was not. So take that into due consideration when I tell you that, for me, being a part of General Conference was an alienating, disconcerting experience, one which I frankly have no desire to ever repeat.
And so as General Conference begins, and as the rate of blogs and articles related to it begin to take up more and more space on my newsfeed, I want to just say briefly that I am praying for everyone attending and everyone affected by the decisions made there, and that you won't be hearing from me about the topic again until it's all over.
My prayer is that the delegates, observers, and those there to witness for justice and inclusion will find moments of hope, of solidarity, and of peace in the midst of all of the rancor, division, and political posturing. My prayer is -- as it always is -- that love will, somehow, prevail.
To be honest, although I have very strong beliefs and opinions about a number of the topics that will be debated, and while I am definitely praying for an end to the hurt that so many have experienced, I am finding it hard to be optimistic about any particular outcome.
In part this is because the experience 4 years ago was so terrible for me, not because of the results of the votes, but because of the hurt and cynicism that seemed to dominate all of the discussions.
In part it is because a quick glance at any of the crosses with which we decorate our churches ought to remind us that the God we proclaim does not really guarantee us results.
What God does promise us, instead, is solidarity. Resurrection. Spirit. Hope.
And so those are the things that I am praying for.
And I am praying that the Church -- as a whole, as a body, not those individuals who already feel they have been emptied, broken, beaten -- but the Church as a whole will remember an ancient, ancient hymn.
In the form of God.
Not grasping for power.
But emptying himself.