Sunday, February 03, 2008

Reflections: Bishop's Convocation - Part 1

Finally, a chance to blog about the Bishop's Convocation. The theme of the event was "In the Spirit of Fellowship," and on that note, Bishop Devadhar invited my colleagues Joe Tiedemann, Chris Heckert and me to present a workshop on blogging and how blogging can be used to create/enhance/nurture community. This is the second time I've taught a workshop on blogging, and I find it an interesting experience. Particularly for older people (clergy in this case), I find there is still a bit of fear/anxiety when it comes to using the computer/internet, etc. But once you walk people through how very simple it is to read and start a blog, people become hopeful and full of ideas about what they might do, how they might connect via blogging.

I've been asked to retool my workshop to present to youth next week. Actually, I feel like most young people will know virtually everything I've presented in my other workshops. What would you say in a workshop about blogging to young people?

Monday evening we had a sort-of open dialogue time with the Bishop. (Bishop Devadhar is one of the most hospitable bishops I know. I know he reads my blog, but I can 100% tell you I'd be saying this even if he didn't. He must have stopped to chat with me 5 0r 6 times throughout the event to see how I was doing. He really goes out of his way to connect - I appreciate that!) Clergy were invited simply to comment, ask the bishop questions, bring up matters of concern. The conversation seemed to focus on the lack of young clergy in particular and young people in general in the church. The bishop said, (rightly, I think) that he believes young people are simply not finding the church relevant. (Actually, I think the bishop was quoting someone here, but you get the point.) Some young clergy in the conference shared that they didn't feel respected or equal or included in the conference. People seemed to want to show their appreciation for these voices, but I'm afraid much of the conversation continued with people referring to young clergy as if we weren't there in the room!

Tuesday, following up on the previous night's forum, the Bishop shared this thought from Brian McLaren, from a magazine - not sure which - anyone know the source?:
(paraphrasing) We are at a juncture where the changes we need are very profound. We don’t just need a few small tweaks . . . when you’re asking new questions, that’s what revolution is all about. I think we’re at a place where we need to ask a whole new set of questions . . . I think we need to face a few realities. Mainline churches realize they are using younger generations. (think answer is music, but jazzing up music won’t help if not answering real questions) Another kind of discomfort our churches will feel if they don’t address these questions. (Loss of younger generations accelerated) See the church as a religious country club – if they want to make a moral difference in the world, the church isn’t the place to do it in . . . In our mainline churches we have been so accustomed to the cold war between liberal and conservative that we haven’t imagined a new arrangement, a convergence . . ."

Our keynote speaker on Tuesday was Garlinda Burton, the General Secretary of COSROW. I thought her presentation was very powerful, heartfelt, and moving. She spoke on the theme of General Conference 2008, “A Future with Hope.” She asked, "what do we believe the future should be? There's a distinction between just having hope and putting legs on our hope."

Here are my mostly unedited notes on Garlinda's presentation:

Part I

Hope in Jesus Christ. A difference between hopes in institutions (clergy, churches) rather than hope in one who actually holds the future (Jesus). “built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.” Getting a paycheck from the church is not the definition of who we are as Christians.

Speak God’s truth to power when we see power capitulate to money, sexism, racism, etc.

Risk. Risk. Risk. We’re called by God to use the power we have. To transform the church. Clergy have considerable power.

Clergy: balanced, biblically grounded, spiritually healthy, self-loving. We ordain and assign too many unbalanced, ungrounded, unhealthy, self-important and self-loathing clergy. If they aren’t out of balance when we get them, the church can sometimes smack people out of balance.

We are not meant to be in ministry in isolation.
Finding covenant group and worship setting for yourself.
A future with hope requires that clergy be equipped to supporting ministries beyond institution.

Life in Christ can’t be only in our heads or hearts – our hearts have to be changed so we can’t see hunger, etc., without feeding! Walk out of the church into places of darkness and declare that the light has come. Sermon her pastor preached titled – “It’s been nice, now get the hell out of here.” Views shaped only by those who look like us, afraid to offend our congregations.

We’re not scratching where society is itching. Our love affair with our privilege is preventing us. Avg. household income of a General Conference delegate last time around was $110,000!!!!!!!!!!!

You gotta get out there. (My note: "Get out There" is also the slogan of Royal Caribbean. Guess I still have cruising on the brain!)

By teaching/speaking recovery, repentance, reconciliation for racial/gender injustice. People of color – 25%-30% country, but only 10% umc, Less than 6% of our large membership churches led by women. People in pews – higher incomes, higher educations. UMC is climbing away from poor. Institutional racism, classism, and sexism.

“Diversity fatigue” – CEOs, one UM bishop, say they are "tired of being guilted." Patient thousands of year of racism, but not 40 years of diversity training.

You speak and act like the kingdom of God is coming today. If Jesus had suffered diversity fatigue…

Part II

Three Simple Rules – Rueben Job
(From JW) "First do no harm, do all the good you can, and stay in love with God"

$50million dollars in misconduct and related details spent this (year, quadrennium?)

Attending worship. Self-care.

If you're a clergy person, do you have a place outside your own congregation where you can/do worship regularly? I've been meaning for years to try to find someplace where I can attend worship midweek.

Strengthening healthy boundaries.

Things we must stop saying:
• We’ll take a woman or person of color as long as he or she is qualified. Assumes men/whites are automatically qualified.
• We had a woman superintendent (or etc.) and they almost split our church. We’re just afraid to have another one….Don’t hear “we had a male bishop and he was so bad and we just don’t want another.”
• Their worship is so different than ours – they like to dance and clap and they don’t want to worship with us boring white folks. If your worship is boring, no matter what color you are, you have a problem!
• Ethnic churches are not financially viable. They can’t sustain themselves and become a drain on the resources of the conference. When we invest in people they will invest in the church and not a second before.

Song: “I will not harm you with words from my mouth.”

Prophetic pastors create more God-focused congregations.

Staying in love with God.

If I am unable to demonstrate love to _______, I am a noisy gong and clanging symbol.

“Cindy has a part of Jesus’ story that I need” (poor, but also (me) conservatives)

Clergy: moving up means moving away from the poor

I'll have another post with Part 2 (Leonard Sweet) tomorrow.
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