General Conference started, officially, at 2pm PDT. Worship began with a drumming and a welcome from a 92 year-old woman who was once leader of her First Nations Tribe. It was poignant and moving. Most of all it was authentic. 3,000 people in the room and I felt like she was talking to me. Amazing.
In Bishop Brown’s sermon we were reminding to listen and build each other up. I pray those words travel from his mouth to God’s ears.
One of the images I love at General Conference is watching our Bishops serve us Communion. Not only that, but during the opening worship, they do not sit on rostrum. Rather, they position themselves around the seated delegates. If ever there was a physical manifestation of the office of bishop, this was it.
Following worship, and a brief standing break, we got to work with the business of General Conference. The biggest item to be debated this afternoon was our rules. There’s a couple of issues at play here (which I go into later) but the major thrust here is these are our rules of the road–how we all agree to live in covenant with each other and how we will make decisions. In an ideal world, there would be trust and confidence in the committee that set up our rules. We’d then approve our rules and move on with other business.
This did not happen.
There were some pretty major changes to our rules from Tampa in 2012–ending earlier, giving the presiding bishop the leeway to determine distracting behavior and invite distracting folk to leave, and the now-infamous Rule 44. This last is an alternative discernment process that has been used in other denomination when they have gotten stuck on a matter. To new honest, I’m torn on its usefulness or appropriateness. I’m tired of our denomination being stuck on human sexuality. At the same time I’m enough of a process guy that I think we need to use our agreed-to processes.
Also, there’s this whole new digital queueing for speaking from the floor. It seems brilliant. That said, there’s objections to digital divides, difficulty in monitoring for age, gender, ethnicity, region of the world, etc.
At the opening session there was much posturing and testing out about how hesitant or how direct we were going to be. There were many points of order, most of which could have been resolved if folk on the floor knew our rules and if our chair was not fatigued (that said, he had two other bishops backing him up who could have helped him out of a few jams). We had a little fun as we were approaching the published end-of-day. A delegate asked for a point of order, kicking us back to using the green, red, and yellow placard since we technically were using the 2012 Rules from Tampa. This helped, especially at a table having technical issues. The bishop followed to add another rule from 2012 to the reminder list: 9:30pm adjournment. This was surprising to many.
We ended the night having voted in Rules 1-43 of the 2016 Plan of Order. Rule 44 will be first thing on the agenda–after worship, of course–in the morning.
We also need to mention the extraordinary ordination that occurred this morning. Love Prevails, part of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition (all the caucus groups advocating for full-inclusion) gathered in the lobby of the Oregon Convention Center and ordained Sue Laurie, an openly lesbian, married woman. Further, Sue and her wife created their own queer safe-space Communion station. While I acknowledge the pain, I had friends who consider themselves allies who found this divisive, not because of the visual but because of the theological implications.
If we do not pass Rule 44, it will be important to watch whether we get stuck. If the Love Your Neighbor Coalition continues to lift up their work in ways that grow increasingly disruptive, I wonder what the threshold is for a witness or protest becoming distracting?
Lastly, pray for Bishop Ken Carter of Florida. He had to go to the hospital after he fell and injured his knee.
It’s been a long day and not a little bit challenging. Setting up our rules seems mundane. The conversations seem tedious and even wasteful. But this is how we organize ourselves. Tomorrow will both be better and more difficult. Time to rest. I’m tired, already. We convene, again at 8am.
- Steps Taken: 12,163
- Items Forgotten: 1 (black belt for my suits).
- Voodoo Donut Stops: 1