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General Conference: The Mail

Today, I received the first mail from a church group/agency that I'm getting because I am a General Conference delegate. This is the beginning of what will be several months of lots and lots of mail. As a delegate, you typically get books, DVDs, CD-Roms, packets of letters from congregations, brochures, etc., from interested United Methodists trying to communicate their views and hopes for GC to the delegates.

When I was a lay delegate to GC in 2000, I was a senior in college. Mail is scarce in college, and you are always wishing for more. (What you don't realize is that the mail grown-ups get is mostly bills. Later in life, you will get more of these than you ever wanted.) The months leading up to GC 2000 were excellent - lots of mail, everyday. I enjoyed reading over the materials, looking at what was motivating people to go to the trouble and expense of contacting 1000 delegates.

Today, I still have some of the materials - some were concise summaries of particular points of view. The vast majority of mail I received was on issues of human sexuality, and some of the resources were good at hitting on key scripture verses, summarizing major arguments, etc. But did any of the mail I received impact me in terms of how I voted at General Conference? I'm not sure.

I try to remain open to where God's voice is calling us to go as a church. In the midst of the rules and debates and tensions of General Conference, sometimes God's voice is a hard thing to hear. On major issues, like human sexuality, where I've already given lots of thought and time and energy to figuring out what God wants from us, I can't imagine changing my mind by something I get in the mail, or someone's two minute speech on the floor of Conference. Is that wrong? I guess it could happen. But it would be hard, and probably take a parting of the clouds and a dove descending. Maybe that's exactly what we need!

But on other issues, over time, with study, with resources, I can see my position changing. In 2000, I voted against legislation that would have made the UMC in the United States into a central conference like other central conferences. Similar legislation will be brought this time around, and now, I'm convinced making this change is critical to the future of our denomination. What brought this change of mind about? I can't pinpoint it exactly. My work with GBCS has played a role. My understanding of how the church works, and where the church is and isn't headed. I'm not totally sure. Still, I'm glad to know that I can change my mind, change my understanding of what God wants from me/us. If there is no hope for God talking to us in new ways, there's really no hope for the church, and not much point in General Conference. Of course, I'm sure some would say that's exactly the case....

What has led you to change your mind about an issue of faith?


John said…
Looking back over the past two years, I think that I've come to see more inappropriate merging of the cross and the flag. I distantly remember a patriotic July 4 service from about four years ago. I really liked it. Now it would offend me deeply.

I guess you've been a bad influence on me, Beth ;)
i don't know if i could expand on all the things i've changed my mind on. even bigger are the things that i've actually formed views & ideas for. i am sorta glad i am not getting mail, though i would have welcomed it had i be privy to go to gc
Beth Quick said…
John - what can I say? I tend to have that effect on people. ;)
John said…
Beth, if you're willing to share: what changed your mind?
Beth Quick said…
Hmm - In part, I guess it was exposure to and relationship building with people in central conference outside the US. How our legislation and work and structure affects those UMs outside the US always seems to be an afterthought, a last minute job, a rewrite instead of a first draft idea. The folks in central conferences feel it, I think, and feel like second-class UM members when it comes to general church stuff. I think that was the biggest impact in changing my thought process.

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