Let's Be Kind: General Conference 2016 So Far

Julia Frisbie, Editor in Chief

Today marks the halfway point of General Conference 2016. This is my first General Conference, and I’ve heard that weeks one and two are very different from each other. Before we dive into the voting tomorrow, here’s week one in review.

photo: Jim Quinn

photo: Jim Quinn

Sue Laurie started the week off right by claiming her ordination in a grassroots ceremony on Tuesday. Sue’s been queer and called to ministry for a long time, and she’s one of the heros of our movement. She stays in the church because she knows that “gay kids are being baptized every Sunday,” many of them in the “tough places” where they’re unlikely to be welcomed when they come out. She wants them to know that they’re not alone. Ever since becoming a Reverend, Sue has been serving “Queer Communion,” an offer which was accepted on the floor of General Conference by Bishops Elaine Stanovsky and Sharon Rader!

Sue’s ordination was the first of many wonderful rallies and vigils that the Love Your Neighbor Coalition has had together this week. We created a “flash Tabernacle” with the indigenous Lumad of the Philippines on Wednesday, gathered to pray about the climate on Thursday, and marched for immigration rights on Friday. For six days now, volunteers have been marching around the Oregon Convention Center advocating for a variety of progressive issues. On Monday, we’ll end this “Jericho March” with a large crowd and a large noise! Later that day we’ll join the UMW in advocating for clean water as a human right. I’ve been excited to see so many of our partners advocating for each other’s key issues. We are living into our intersectional ideal more and more!

I’ll be honest, though: what’s happening inside General Conference has been brutal. Rev. Vicki Flippin of MFSA and Dr. Dorothee Denz of the New York Annual Conference were forbidden to address LGBTQI concerns before the body. Committees have killed many compassionate proposals-- including those that would have helped our church take a stance against bullying, abuse, and “reparative therapy” for gay kids. There’s no way to soften the blow. This just hurts.

photo: Jeff Waymack

photo: Jeff Waymack

Proposals on divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestine have suffered. Some terrible proposals on reproductive rights have made it through, and we’ll continue to oppose them. One schismatic piece passed by one vote despite our opposition. Fossil Free UMC’s proposals are a mixed bag: some, predictably, have been killed, but with better margins of support than expected… and at least one petition (which would add fossil fuels to the list of things Board of Pensions has to screen for) has made it through committee. Many of the proposals from the Inter-Ethnic Strategy Development Group (IESDG) have also made it through. But, in spite of unprecedented efforts to build relationships across national and political lines, we continue to see people voting in blocks. This indicates that we, as a General Conference body, are not really listening to each other.

photo: Gary Shepherd

photo: Gary Shepherd

I’m not here to put a positive spin on everything. I’m here to tell the truth. And this is the truth: our people are doing some AMAZING things. We have the most incredible team. But many of us are feeling wounded already. And the hard part, they tell me, hasn’t even started yet.

So, friends, let’s be kind to ourselves. Let’s be kind to each other. This movement’s greatest asset is its people. No matter what happens on the floor of General Conference this week, my goal is to keep seeing God’s face all over you. That’s the story I want to share.

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