Yesterday on the Journey to the 2019 General Conference

Yesterday was the hardest day yet in my journey toward the 2019 Called United Methodist General Conference Session.  It’s been a long, difficult road for many personal and denominational reasons.  Yesterday, all the frustrations and pain brought me to a tipping point.

I have said it to almost every group I’ve spoken with: this is by far the hardest work any of us serving on delegations from Annual Conferences have ever undertaken on behalf of the church.

  • It is physically tiring:  long hours of preparation, travel, difficult conversations and relationship building.
  • It is mentally challenging:  trying to listen intently to a wide variety of voices, reading and processing pages of legislative language, blogs, email and letters, attempting to become more culturally aware of the needs and understandings of our fellow United Methodists around the world.
  • It is emotionally draining:  keeping up with family and work demands while spending hours helping local congregations, individuals, pastors and staff teams deal with challenging conversations, crying with some and being extremely frustrated with others, having your words taken out of context and dissenting comments shouted all while trying to remain on the outside a non-anxious leader at the same time the extreme introvert on the inside wants my knees to quit shaking and the tears to stay away until I get to my car.
  • It can be spiritually destructive:  you can only be told so many times that your personal life choices may not honor God – especially when those speaking have no idea their generalities apply to you – before you begin to question your own faith.

Maybe I had a very unrealistic expectation that by this time, five days before the start of the General Conference session, people would have shared what they wanted to say in regard to support for one plan or another and the volume of email would slow.  I was wrong.  Maybe I thought the chastising looks would disappear from people’s faces and the hurtful words would turn to prayers for safe travel and endurance.  I as wrong.

Yesterday in a face-to-face conversation I was asked how I felt about “this topic.”  The conversation started about women in leadership as the individual was sharing that a young couple in her non-United Methodist church had left because a female had been called to serve as lead pastor.  Knowing I was headed to St. Louis in a few days, the person moved to the question of full participation of persons who are LGBTQ+ in the life of the church.

“So how do you feel about all this?”

I gave my standard response when I’m not quite sure of the perspective of the other person.  “The Jesus I choose to follow calls me to love everybody.  I believe all of us have gifts and graces to serve in ministry and live out the Gospel message.”

A questioning glare, moment of silence and nod of the head followed.  I’ve experienced that same response many times.  It is better than the people who just turn and walk away. As I stood there before this person, I’ll admit I momentarily questioned whether my understanding of the man we call Jesus was right or wrong.

Early in the evening there was an attached document to an email describing all those who differ from the writer in their understanding of the Bible as “enslaved by Satan.” According to this person, I am there – shackled and tethered.  And that was the last letter I could bear to read yesterday.

My soul is weary.

Last night I had to disconnect from it all.  If I believed even half the things that people have been saying about who belongs in the church…if my understanding of Christianity was based on all the arguments I’ve been reading and hearing…there is no possible way I could even enter the doors of a church sanctuary.  I would be unwelcome in their congregations.

Pray for me.  Pray for the other 863 delegates like me who find themselves in similar personal space – and soon in the same physical space – where doubt surfaces, where patience and endurance wane, where relationships change, where faith is tested – yet where the Spirit can transform.

“It is said that when Martin Luther would slip into one of his darker places (which happened a lot…), he would comfort himself by saying “Martin be calm, you are baptized.”  I suspect his comfort came not from recalling the moment of baptism itself, or in relying on baptism as a sort of magic charm, but in remembering what his baptism signified: His identity as a beloved child of God.” – Rachel Held Evans

 

“The church is not a group of people who believe all the same things; the church is a group of people caught up in the same story, with Jesus at the center.” – Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

11 thoughts on “Yesterday on the Journey to the 2019 General Conference

  1. You are loved, dear friend. Thank you for sharing so honestly. You still rank way up there in my list of people I admire and love!!

    Like

  2. Martha, you are one of the most godly people I know. From our first meeting to this, I knew you were a true child of God and a disciple of Christ. If anybody is going to do the right thing, it is you. Your ears shoild burn a lot because I sing your praises all the time. Continue to follow God’s leading as you enter this conference and God will use you in a mighty way. I am praying for you, the delegates from Virginia, and all delegates to this conference. Through it all, may Jesus Christ be praised. Amen.

    Like

    1. I love your post and I am glad you explained the burden of being a delegate so well. People have no idea why I get serious as soon as they remind me I am a delegate and why I wish I could forget for a few minutes at least. Although I know is a lot more difficult for you as leader of the delegation leading all those difficult conversations. I am very happy is you who is leading us to St. Louis. because you bring us back to the source of our strength in Christ: that amazing love that never ends! I love you!

      Like

  3. Martha, you are so kind and full of empathy for others and their struggles. I know that God will bless you and see you through this. I know that God’s church will survive and I know that Christ will forgive us and restore us for all our many sins and mistakes. Just know that you are loved and appreciated.

    Like

  4. Martha,
    Your heart is all over the words I have just read on your latest blog. Yes, I will be praying for you and the many other delegates as you gather to share and vote on this important concern of this General Conference. Please remember, many back home will be holding you and all the delegates up in our prayers in the days ahead. Our prayers are for God’s will and direction to be evident to all. I can only imagine how difficult some of the conversations may be. You and the many other delegates are deeply appreciated for all the sweat equity you have put into this process over the past months and years. Safe travels to you. I feel we are well represented in delegates like you. Thanks Martha. At the end of all this, may we as a denomination be able to heal and truly be pleasing to the mighty God we serve.

    Like

  5. Martha you are a child of God as we all are. Thank you for bearing this load on behalf of all of His children. I appreciate you and value your worth. Thank you for being courageous, but most of all, for bearing witness on behalf of Christ. Hugs.

    Vicky Butler

    Like

  6. Martha,

    Praying for all regardless of their opinions. Praying for God’s will and God’s strength to accept whatever decision is made. Praying for hearts not to be broken, but for hearts to be healed. Praying for love and grace. As one of the people having the privilege of hearing you speak, God’s strength resides in you. God surrounded you and gave you patience. You listened, even when the person speaking was not loving or caring. You continued explaining options when people tried to talk overtop of you. You were the pillar of strength God created you to be. You were a conduit of information. You could feel the Holy Spirit residing in you and around you. Praying for you and all.

    Like

  7. May God bless you and all who gather in St. Louis. May you all feel our prayers lifting you.
    Thank you for all that you are doing in service to Jesus, as his hands, feet and heart.

    Like

Leave a Reply to Elizabeth Anne von Trapp Walker Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s