Well I just got back from my first full annual conference session. Yes we already had our annual conference, in Troy like to get 'em early I guess. I don't know why it was so early it has something to do with conference center scheduling i think.. So this was the first conference I have gone for the whole time. The past two years I have just shown up for a day or two. This year I was able to vote because I am not a certified candidate for ministry and no one else from my church wanted to go as the lay delegate so I got to go. Of course for the next two years i won't be able to vote because I'll be a lowly seminarian, but I 'll take that because I got to vote on the all important general conference stuff.
Let me just say going to conference this year was quite the interesting experience. I'll start with my hot button issue. So This was the annual conference where we repented and reconciled for the racism and discrimination of the central jurisdiction. Well what a joke that was. The intention I think was very good. The conference has taken steps to right it's wrong. We can't drag minorities into our pews, but we have had racial and cultural sensitivity training. We've done quite a bit. I do give the conference credit for that. But these two services were bad. The first service of repentance was a two hour service at the end of which we forgave ourselves. Honest to goodness, no lie we forgave ourselves. The bishop's sermon was more of a history lesson. She did have a few high moments of calls to action and the need to recognize our privilege, but I thought there should have been more. In fact one of my pastor friends came up with a great new term. Hermeneutical mutiny: when the congregation wants to storm the pulpit. Anyway back to the forgiving ourselves. So we wrote the service, had a few token members of our sister pan-African denominations at the service , then asked one of them to stand up and read a statement of forgiveness which we had written. It was sad. I was angry and ashamed. I was given hope that there were quite a few people who felt the same way about the service. Of course there were some that thought it was wonderful. SCARY!!!
So then the next morning we had a service of reconciliation. Again let's tote out the token minorities again. There were two speakers whose sermons were very touching , although they were given by two white women. At least what they had to say was relevant. Then we had all the minorities who felt called to do so come up on the stage. the great thing was there were inclusive of all minorities, not just blacks. So we had Koreans, Africans, African - Americans, Native Americans, and Multiracial people on stage it was nice to see. then without warning we were asked to introduce ourselves. Then we had to introduce ourselves (yes I went on stage) and say something. A little warning about that would have been nice. Anyway I spent the rest of the day at conference with people seemingly feeling awkward, but still asking me so what is your herbage. I was kind of interesting to see the reaction people had. But in particular i have really come into my own comfort level with my multi-racialness. It is not who, but it part of me. I can't help the fact that my skin is not as dark as others think it should be. My father is black. My mother is white, I look like i am white. I am not. I am not white. I am not black. I am mixed I am me and I am proud that I can say that and not care how much that may unsettle other people. I must say that I will not forget how much it meant to me when a retired pastor who knows my family very well came up and told me how proud of me he was for going up on stage. Anytime I struggle with my identity in ministry I will keep that with me.
Then came two hot button topics. Our statement about the withdrawal from Iraq and homosexuality. the Iraq discussion was a little unexpected seeing how at district conference we had no discussion about it. We passed the statement after about an hour of debate. Of course the man sitting next to me said how dumb we were because we would just create a christian genocide. As if there aren't Christians dying there already. But he is also the man that was convinced that the NY part of our conference should care less about VT because they seceded from us 200 years ago. Yes there are always a few.
That's all for now installment two will happen shortly