I’m not at General Conference and I’m glad. The thought of long hours in legislative committees followed by all the wrangling in debate leaves me pleading, “Please don’t make me go. Please. I’ll be good, I promise!”
As delegates and others gather in Tampa, I’m driving the wide-open roads of Central Washingtion State. I’ll be introducing new pastors to congregations, helping a church sell an old parsonage and buy a new one, meeting with a young man to explore with him his call to ordained ministry, talking with one of our younger pastors about how ministry is going for him. I’ll make plans for the district academy we’ll hold in May and spend a morning with our district lay leader plotting how to better equip and support the clergy and lay leaders of the district for disciple-making and ministry with the world around them. It will be a good and fruitful two weeks.
No, I won’t be in Tampa. But, you can bet I’ll be listening in to the conversation and the work of GC2012. Because, while I don’t want to be there – I’m grateful that others are. The work I get to do these next two weeks and the way I get to do it is a result of all those General Conferences that came before.
We crack jokes about the minutiae attended to in the Book of Discipline, but its policies and procedures and “what to do when…”s, provide real guidance in real situations. Somewhere along the line, people who imagined or experienced Cohen brother versions of selling church property, wrote legislation for General Conference and it’s resulted in a truly helpful section. (thank you!) It’s not guidance that a church needs very often, but boy when that situation arises what a help to have it right there at hand.
This year the delegates will be discussing big issues that will affect things like how we’re organized, how clergy are deployed, who we can ordain and who our clergy are authorized to marry. That’s the work that will get the most press and generate the most emotion and I’ll be following it just as eagerly as anyone. But there’s a special place in my heart for all the work that will go unnoticed and unthanked until they save a congregation and superintendent time and energy in figuring out how to proceed and help them avoid the pitfalls that others have experienced.
My thoughts and prayers will be with all those at GC 2012. Committee work from 7am to midnight and beyond. Voting on hard decisions on emotional subjects. Paying attention to seeming picky details of process and wording. And all the while trying to stay grounded in Spirit and work from a perspective of Christian community. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m grateful they do.