Not long ago, I expressed the hope that the Episcopal Church’s conversation on the relationship between communion and baptism could be an example to the world of how the church argues with itself. I asked what would happen if opponents on this issue got together for prayer (first) instead of debate. These questions, I hope it is clear, apply to all kinds of issues facing the church at the moment, including church structure.
Now, there’s a very thoughtful post mortem from the United Methodist General Conference that is chock full of wisdom:
As I watched General Conference (thankfully not a delegate), I was keenly aware of both sides of most positions. I could see the value in both sides (and often the theological basis for both sides). What I couldn’t see very often was the willingness of the “poles”—or those who argued most vehemently for a position—to listen and, perhaps, even change their minds. Or at the very least, nuance their position.
…Our church, as it currently exists, seems unwilling to compromise, to listen, to track the Spirit’s movement. We are in a rowboat on a turbulent sea, and find ourselves unwilling to row together toward a distant horizon. So we go in circles. Or drift backwards. Hopefully, Jesus is in prayer on the shore and will soon come walking toward us on these same waters.
…We do have worship at General Conference, sometimes very meaningful worship. I wonder what might happen, though, if we spent the first 24 hours gathered in prayer, silent prayer especially, and listening for God? No politicking or maneuvering allowed! Can we expect holy conferencing to be holy if we haven’t quieted ourselves to listen for God?
The author’s proposal, for a period of sustained prayer and reflection before the proceedings begin, echoes the structure of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, which had a multi-day retreat before the actual conference began. It’s much too late to suggest this, of course, but I’d like to heartily endorse the author’s proposal for a period of prayer and retreat before this summer’s General Convention of the Episcopal Church. At a time when the church is only shaving days from its meetings to save dollars, it is unlikely, of course, that the idea will ever take off.
But I did find myself wondering: will this summer’s General Convention give rise to similar feelings as this author identifies? Are people already composing similar post mortem articles? One hopes not, but given the fever pitch which has already taken over, it seems, sadly, more likely than not.