By Kimberly Woods
Or should I say, the legislative committee begins. That was the basic focus for the General Conference session today.
(Photo credit: Nathan Jeffries)
We started the morning, as any Sunday morning ought to, with worship. We received a very passionate and powerful message from Bishop Kenneth Carter. The message focused on stories, the necessary reminder that our story is “not the only story.”
“The Good News is God has a story too.” -Bishop Kenneth Carter
The focus was on the stories of God, the stories in Scripture that may not mesh with “our story” or what we view the story to be. “God’s story,” Bishop Carter shared, “is a creation story.” We are still learning and shaping a new creation, breaking down barriers to build anew. Our story is not finished because God isn’t finished teaching us yet.
The Bishop also reminds us to focus on what connects, not what divides, to live together and remain in unity. This was an excellent segue to the report from the Commission on the Way Forward. Members of the Commission shared their process of discussion, prayer, and how they worked together in spite of their differences. Many voices spoke about the matters before us, including two persons, one laity & one clergy, who identified as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Reverend Brian Adkins, who identified himself as gay clergy, shared a powerful message:
“There is a place for you [LGBTQ people] at God’s table and no one can take it from you. Claim it.”
Following the report and lunch, we prepared to move from a plenary body to a legislative committee, all 864 of us.
In this body, we elected a chair, vice-chair, and secretary to lead us. It was then time to vote the prioritization, the order in which we would be considering the 76 or so petitions and plans before us.
Relatively quickly, we voted petitions as either high or low priority. We had quite a bit of a wait and some spontaneous worship while waiting on the results.
As a picture is worth 1000 words, here is a picture of the top five results.
To explain, these are the first items on which the legislative committee wants to vote, in order. It doesn’t mean that these items are the only things being considered or that they are guaranteed to pass in plenary. It simply means that the body deems these worthy of discussing first in our legislative session.
All we had the opportunity to vote on tonight was the Wespath recommendations, essentially dealing with pension & how pensions and other financial information as it relates to the plans presented, was passed by the legislative committee. The vote was then cast to adjourn the legislative session in order to more carefully consider the items before us in the morning, rather than push against our time for worship.
What occurred today does not mean that the Traditional plan prevails above all, that One Church plan is done, or that the church is about to schism.
What it does mean is that we have work to. We are discussing many plans. We have many petitions and options before us. Our work is far from finished here.
We are not done yet.
My hope moving forward is that we honor and recognize the work of the Commission on the Way Forward in our discussions and in our actions. My hope is that we reach across aisles and speak plainly and intentionally to those with whom we may not agree.
My hope, personally and openly, is that we acknowledge our family in Christ, including our LGBTQ+ siblings, who are hurting & feeling marginalized and asking love to prevail, to tell them that we see them, that their voices, our voices, are heard.
Do not make them shout over protesters outside, but let their stories be shared in whispers to those who will listen & spoken softly as in prayer, to be lifted up to God as the beloved children they are. Help them claim the place at the table and acknowledge their stories matter.