Credit: Photo of Katie’s commissioning service by Scott Kraft.
I have noticed that this year I am watching General Conference with new eyes. In some ways, the advancement of technology has literally meant I can watch and participate in GC like I haven’t in quadrennia past. But I think it actually has more to do with the fact that as a provisional deacon, about to be ordained, it all just feels a lot more important to me personally.
Preparing for ordination, I have found, is somewhat similar to preparing for marriage. Both are covenants of fidelity, love, and partnership. Both are promises to choose and daily re-choose to commit to the relationship, even when the going gets rough. And both are covenants made for all parties exactly as they are—warts and all.
In a number of months, if all goes well with my interview with the Full Membership Committee, I will be asked “Wesley’s Historical Questions” at Annual Conference before getting ordained. This series of questions includes a number that are specifically focused on my relationship with the UMC:
Do you know the General Rules of our Church?
Will you keep them?
Have you studied the doctrines of The United Methodist Church?
After full examination, do you believe that our doctrines are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures?
Will you preach and maintain them?
Have you studied our form of Church discipline and polity?
Do you approve our Church government and polity?
Will you support and maintain them?
I’ll be expected to answer these questions in the affirmative if I am to be ordained, and I take very seriously my responsibility to answer them honestly. And what is happening at General Conference this year directly impacts my answer to these questions.
I am seeing some things that make me hopeful. I take hope in the UMW choosing to send two women from Cameroon to seminary instead of putting together an elaborate General Conference display. I take hope in Adam Hamilton listening to the concerns of young people in response to his Call to Action presentation, and giving of his time during lunch to speak with those young people.
But I am also concerned. I am concerned that we will fail to be a place that reflects Jesus’ radical hospitality to the outsiders. I am concerned that we will continue to expend so much of our precious resources of time and energy in the ongoing contentiousness surrounding persons in same-sex relationships, women’s reproductive freedoms, and equitable representation and power of minorities within the church. I am concerned that we will privilege the politics of power over the call to go out in to the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus.
So I’m finding that as I follow GC in its first few days, I have a lot of mixed feelings. Joy mixes with concern. Sadness and disappointment mix with hope. And I’m filled with trepidation at watching not only what decisions are made, but how decisions are made. I’m watching carefully, and praying fervently, for the church I love and am about to covenant with in a new way.