A Thought on GC2012: It is time to hold hands!
I’ve been hesitant to write any remarks about General Conference for two reasons: 1) I was an armchair spectator who watched most of the plenary sessions from the comfort of my couch or office chair; 2) many bloggers, whom I respect, have eloquently written their thoughts on the event. Kevin Watson, Tim McClendon, Ben Gosden, James Howell, Bishop Hoshibata, Bishop Coyner (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), Andy Langford, Dan Dick, Mike Slaughter, Bishop Willimon, Jay Vorhees and others have helped me think critically about General Conference 2012 (GC2012).
In all my reading about GC2012, a consistent theme has emerged: we, United Methodist clergy and laity from all around the world, don’t seem to trust each other. And, in the wake of our quadrennial, international gathering known as General Conference, it seems that all factions have retreated to their ivory towers and resumed the yelling (or at least, the proclaiming of unyielding opinions and threats of schism) from afar.
One of the things I know about myself is that in the midst of conflict my flight response is very strong. When there are strong, hateful or heated disagreements, my first, instinctual response is not to fight. It is to flee. One of the ways I’ve learned to overcome my urge to retreat is to hold hands with the person I’m arguing with. It is not comfortable for me to do. But, it keeps me present, facing the person, rather than yelling from afar or stewing with my back turned. Friends, it is time we stop fighting and fleeing. It is time to hold hands!
We cannot gain each other’s trust by taking “pot shots” at each other on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or closed groups of like-minded people. If we really want to gain each other’s trust, then we’ve got to actually talk with and partner with each other to make disciples for the transformation of the world! We need to stop running from each other and then yelling from a distance. For Christ’s sake, we need to hold hands, in the midst of our disagreement, and be present with and work with one another so that a hurting world might see glimpses of the Kingdom in our churches, districts, Annual Conferences, and General Conferences!
Brothers and sisters, I am convinced that if we, the people of The United Methodist Church, would simply hold hands, even though we do not always agree, and work together to make disciples of Jesus Christ, we would see a revival in The United Methodist Church. Therefore, as a young clergy-person with a great deal of hope for the people called United Methodists,
I beseech you…by the mercies of God, that we be in no wise divided among ourselves. Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thine? I ask no farther question. If it be, give me thy hand. For opinions, or terms, let us not destroy the work of God. Dost thou love and serve God? It is enough. I give thee the right hand of fellowship. If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies; let us strive together for the faith of the Gospel; walking worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called; with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; remembering, there is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called with one hope of our calling; “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.“
 From “The Character of a Methodist” by John Wesley in the Thomas Jackson edition of The Works of John Wesley, 1872. Emphasis added.