GC19 Day 1 Reflection
By Bob Phillips
Saturday of GC19 began (for me) with a breakfast reflecting more traditional delegates and churches. Roughly 500 were present, perhaps double the number one found at a similar breakfast in Portland. Rev. Jerry Kulah of Liberia gave a rousing mini-message that set a positive tone. The official day of the conference was dedicated largely to prayer, highlighting the various global regions of the church in addition to prayer for the upcoming business of the conference. The final 2 hours prior to 6:30 adjournment was a briefing for delegates on the logistics of voting and process, which begins in earnest after Sunday worship.
These general snapshots:
- The day of prayer was real and refreshing, time well and wisely spent.
- While politics quickly re-emerged with the implication of the Judicial Council decisions, perspective rooted in prayer still matters. Remember, regardless of one's approach to the sexuality debate, the first casualty in battle is the plan. Legislation could not and cannot and will not provide a solution or permanent fix to the growling over sexuality.
- The addition of a professional parliamentarian is great news. In 2016 at Portland I was stunned to learn no professional was on the stage, and it showed with repeated, well-intentioned incompetence. The individual employed by the bishops is an adult in the playpen and his initial presentation was gracious, balanced and professional. Old tactics used for stalling or distraction ("point of order, move to table, quack quack") were noted by this pro, who sweetly made clear that stunts won't be on the menu this time, or hopefully ever again.
- Westboro Baptist Church was present and noisy across the street. I read at least one posting that mentioned this with the word, "This is what we are up against," suggesting those who affirm traditional marriage are cousins to these clowns. WBC has national reputation: at a seminar at St. Andrews in Scotland in 2012, every one of the participants had heard of this group of whackos, and these were 22 students from 5 continents. How does a 'church' of 35, recognized by no Baptist affiliation on earth, rate this attention? They want it and it is in the interest of some to project them as typical of churches that hold traditional views. I ignore them, just another group used by General Satan to create a distraction. And most who do want the church to change its teaching do NOT see Westboro as a fair representation of churches that embrace historic Christian teaching.
- Tomorrow the decision of the GC as to which plans to consider in what order will reflect where the GC is leaning. That will set the stage for the final two days.
- Looking ahead...when the GC outcome becomes clear and one group of folks feel they have lost the day, look for demonstrations, angry voices, disruption, actions designed to halt or derail the conference. Or not. The reaction, whether from the liberal or conservative side, will reflect much about the character of those who lead and how real is the spirit of Christ in the respective ranks.
- Late in the evening came word that the Judicial Council had declared a couple of petitions aligned with the Modified Traditional Plan to be unconstitutional. Basically the petitions were seeking a way of holding disobedient bishops accountable to the church, but the methods proposed failed constitutional muster. The problem is that the church is rooted in mutual trust, promise-keeping and integrity. The church becomes befuddled and largely powerless if some leaders act in defiance or disobedience, and are protected in that disobedience by some other bishops responsible for accountability. Three days may do more to illustrate the challenge than to resolve it. Stay tuned!