By Andy Adams
IGRC Clergy Delegate
You probably don’t care, but just in case you do, it’s obvious I’ve taken a hiatus from blogging. It just isn’t built into my regular routine. I haven’t been lazy over the last couple of years during my time away from the blogosphere. I’ve been enjoying the love of my family (Amy Jo and I will be married 16 years this summer and our kids are 8 and 7 – such fun ages!), helping to merge two United Methodist congregations, as well as write and research about it for my Doctor of Ministries dissertation. Maybe you can understand why I’ve taken a break from blogging.
However, I will be starting up again during the 2016 General Conference which meets from May 10-20, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. General Conference is the highest decision making body of the United Methodist Church that meets every four years. This will be my second General Conference as an elected delegate (I was a “rookie” in 2012 in Tampa). I’m one of the 864 from all over the world. When I think about it from that perspective, the magnitude of the responsibility is not lost on me. I’ve tried to honor Jesus as well as those who elected me by being diligent in prayer and preparation.
Last week I shared with my church’s leadership and broader congregation the importance of everyone’s prayers for General Conference. Many issues will be debated and decided including the role of the pastor, the “Imagine No Malaria” initiative, missionary support, the planting of new churches, the appointment of pastors, the accountability of bishops, the issue of human sexuality, as well as many other social and theological issues. These topics (and many more) will all be on the table. Many of these concerns to be addressed are the same issues that we face in our culture and world at large. And the sad reality is, we are as divided as a Church as we are in our nation and world. Virtually every contentious topic is presented in an “either/or” scenario and it’s hard to find unity.
Maybe that’s why Jesus prayed so hard for his followers to be united in heart and mission. Earlier in the night of his arrest, after he had shared his final meal with his disciples, the book of John records what has become known as Jesus’ high priestly prayer in chapter 17. Here is a snipit of it: Jesus prayed, I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one – as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. (John 17:20-23) Jesus is praying for the church today as much as his original followers. He’s praying for our unity of heart and mission SO THAT the WORLD may know how much God loves them. Our disunity hurts our mission.
To be frank, I do not believe that we will achieve unity at our General Conference. Yes, we will be able to agree on some things, but I realistically believe that our disagreements will continue to separate us and compromise our mission. Yet here is my hope and prayer. That even in our disunity around social and theological issues, that as those redeemed by Jesus’ blood, our unity in Christ will lead us to treat one another with civility and respect. That we will cease the divisive rhetoric and name calling and instead address our challenges with love and compassion. Would you join me in praying for that kind of unity so that the world may know?
More to come from Portland.