Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Thoughts before Annual Conference

Tomorrow, I will leave for Western PA Annual Conference, held at beautiful Grove City College in Grove City, PA. I ask all readers of this blog to be in prayer for Bishop Thomas Bickerton and all Conference particpants from June 7-10. Always important theologically and connectionally, this year's Conference has the added importance of electing delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2008. May the Spirit reign and bless.

I will probably not be posting until next week. You can follow the proceeedings here.

Some miscellaneous thoughts before leaving for Grove City...

* Inclusiveness is important. We need to be as inclusive as possible, and I pray that our elected delegation reflects our Conference's commitment to diversity. But...inclusiveness is not our primary value. My fear is that many view it as such.

In his response to Judicial Council Decision 1032, theologian William Abraham said, "Inclusivism can sometimes be a good servant, but it is a bad master." In other words, we need to take inclusion seriously, but ought not allow it to become the primary factor in determining our course of action as the Church.

In the May/June 2007 issue of Circuit Rider, Maxie Dunnam writes, "I believe the greatest theological barrier to mission and evangelism is a diminished belief in the uniqueness of Jesus. We have made idols of tolerance and inclusiveness. We speak and act as though diversity itself is redemptive." We need to remember that inclusiveness is a wonderful gospel calling, but that the love of God in Jesus Christ is alone redemptive.

While we need to be aware of inclusivity when it comes to electing delegates, we should be more concerned about missional and theological concerns.

* P22 seems more problematic each time I read it. It is written by well meaning folks who wish to halt the "armband protests" of several members of our Conference. The protests are surely in poor taste and do reflect some theological concerns, but I'm not sure this kind of thing can be (or should be) legislated. An American flag pin, for instance, is an intensely political statement, and could easily be seen as a protest against the Lordship of Christ or the radical calling of his Kingdom. Should these, too, be banned? And how does one enforce this piece of legislation? What are the consequences if one violates this piece, should it become part of our Conference Rules?

* I have been in prayer over my votes for members of our delegation. I think I know the bulk of the group I'll be voting for, but am remaining open to the Spirit's leading when I get to Grove City and we begin our Christian conferencing.

I do have a concern that our delegation might be dominated by District Superintendents. These are fine folks, sincere Christian disciples, but I'm not sure they make the best representatives of our Conference. The Cabinet is almost a constituency unto itself, and doesn't necessarily represent the wishes and desires of the members of Conference...yet they are among our most prominent Elders, due to the public nature of their current appointments. I do intend to vote for some members of the Cabinet, but I really hope that they end up as a minority on our delegation, rather than a dominating factor. (Forgive me if you think this is sharing too much, or is written in bad taste.)

Some interesting reads...

* Here is an excellent post by a member of our Conference, Bill Beatty, who serves First UMC in Warren, PA.

* Here is an excellent article in "Christianity Today" about the failings of "missional theology" from the perspective of Singaporean theologian Simon Chan.

* Here is a fascinating article in "The Christian Century" about Sen. Barack Obama's church, Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.

* Here is a good commentary on poverty from the United Methodist News Service.


Randy Roda said...

Tolerance is a goal, not a direction. As usual, good post...see you on Thursday.

Brenda said...

Hope to see you at conference. Planning on being there, but Pearl is sick so things might change.

Matt said...

May God bless you, your bishop, and your conference. I pray that your experience is somehow truly reflective of holy conferencing.