General Conference


A day of elections, celebrations, demonstration

General Conference 2016

Robert Phillips

5/17/2016

"Human anger does not work Divine righteousness," so says James 1:20. I dwell on the residual power of Pentecost(al) worship from our African brothers and sisters yesterday, and stories of courage and faith from all over the church. That is our mission. That is what matters most. That is what the denomination, and Peoria First, exist to do and are doing in many lives.


A reasonably mellow day

General Conference 2016

Robert Phillips

5/17/2016

Lots of social and religious and secular media are focusing on the single issue of sex as though that is all that is happening, or the only thing that really matters. This wildly misses the point and the larger issues the conference is addressing on empowering training for clergy, making the path to leadership more rational, funneling resources to sources of life rather than dribbling them into dead end projects.


An uncertain future

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

To frame what is happening as either a conservative takeover or a progressive temper-tantrum would be to both miss the point and indulge in the sort of self-indulgent blame-shifting that is so common in any divorce. We should refuse to soothe our suffering by skipping over the hard searching questions that can and should accompany such tragedies. We leaders allowed the church to arrive at this place both by sins of commission and omission. In spite of some notable successes, we have poorly represented Jesus together. Our apathy for each other allowed us to grow apart. Our distrust of each other was built into our polity in 1939 and 1968. Were we ever married or just living together?


Are we breaking up?

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

For over 40 years, our global denomination has held rancorous debates around issues of homosexuality. At this point, many of our key leaders on all sides have decided it is time to end the fight. All the details have not been shared, but in broad strokes, the plan suggests a three-way separation. Those pastors and congregations on the far right and the far left would leave, and those pastors and congregations in the middle would stay. Specific definitions of “right,” “left,” and “middle” have not been shared.


Behind the rumors of schism

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

So, what happened to get the rumor mill buzzing and created a feeling of panic across denomination? The following is my best piecing together of what generally happened along with my own interpretive lens.


Doing Biblical justice

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

Doing Biblical Justice is 1) Meeting the needs of the most vulnerable and 2) Righting wrongs done to the most vulnerable. Biblical justice is always directed toward the poor and oppressed. You never read about God fighting for justice and being a “defender of” the rich or the strong. Now this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care about justice for ALL people. It just means that as a default, justice usually happens for the strong, rich, powerful and privileged.


What is the way forward?

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

Some of the possible ways forward for our denomination across the wide spectrum with brief explanation why they could or could not work.


What Matters Most

General Conference 2016

5/17/2016

I have had time to reflect on this demonstration and the events which have transpired since that day. It has barely been 48 hours, but tensions have remained high, rumors have flown, and persons have feared for the future of our church and our denomination. While I am not a person who fights for social justice by protests and outward demonstrations as this group did, I empathize with them and am proud of their actions. In the time between that demonstration, that visible cry for change and reconciliation, I have had time to recognize what truly matters for our church.


Keeping time or making time?

General Conference 2016

Robert Phillips

5/16/2016

I joined others in Pentecost worship led by the combined African delegation. It was the most uplifting and Spirit-filled service I have known, all 2.5 hours of it (and those who know me realize that for me the Holy Spirit packs his bad, flips off the light and leaves the room promptly at 60 minutes). Not today...the Holy Spirit was on high octane and the singing, prayers, sermon and sense of connection was powerful. As to the time, one of the African bishops stood up at the end and apologized to the African members for such a short service! As he then gently said to the Anglo types in the room: You keep time but we make time. Oh yes.


The cost of being the global church

General Conference 2016

5/16/2016

Sisters and brothers, as I sit in General Conference, and think about it cost more than $1,000 a minute for conversations that go on ad nauseum, I have come to the conclusion this is what it takes to be a global church. As I listen to the debates, many of them come about because we do not understand the cultural context of many of our brothers and sisters. Even those from the USA. I believe we must find away to build community around the world before we come together as strangers for 10 days. We have got to find away for the world to become our parish. Any thoughts?


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