Friday, May 2, 2008

Things are winding down....

As we debate the last petitions, the rest of the display area, Cokesbury bookstore and all the rooms that were being used outside of the Arena are tearing down, packing up and heading home. The many delegates and participants of the conference wish they could do the same. The work will probably take until 11:00pm to finish up - it could go later.

Note the ALL! This does not exclude a pastor from refusing vows to a person they do not believe is ready, but it does give greater support to pastors who believe that membership should not people solely based on a persons race, age, ethnicity, culture, gender, or sexual orientation ( or other catagories we have come up with)

On that final thought - I am going to make this my final thought. I believe in the work of Christ as the Spirit he promised moves through The United Methodist Church. We are ONE DIVERSE BODY making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Thank you for taking this journey with us!
grace, Jan

Thursday, May 1, 2008

For those who were not able to see this...

Due to the peaceful protest happening during the break there wasn't a live feed. Later it was announced that this was taped and available on so I posted a direct link on the side. Also, the sermon this morning was very healing for those on all sides of this issue - I'll add a link with this sermon to the side as well. Hope springs eternal! grace, Jan

The Rollercoaster of General Conference

As you have just heard from Jan, it has been an interesting 24 hours for us. I myself have thought about the last few days, and the feelings I have had as a first time delegate, and young adult, to General Conference..and what exactly I want to say about this, as my heart hurts for some of the pain that has happened. First, I want to apologize as blogging has become a little more difficult to do. The long days, beginning at 8 and continuing through 12am have become difficult, and many of us are beginning to feel the effects. I hope I can convey the below message and update in a way that is sensitive to all persons, but clear on how I feel and where I stand, and where this journey is taking me.

One of the highlights for me thus far has been the opportunity to be on the floor. I have now been on the floor with two different sessions. With great surprise and excitement, I happened to be on the floor as a delegate when the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, came to the conference and addressed all of us. I can't even describe how awesome it was to be in the presence of such a powerful, beautiful woman. I listened intently as her life was of perseverance, hope and intentional love for those around her. I think her being a woman,...a STRONG, courageous, persevering woman, is what truly struck me. Her sense of justice for all, was amazing. What was equally awesome for me was to watch the African Children's Choir flock to her with faces of true love. It was an awesome experience, and one that I am grateful to have experienced..

And then there is yesterday. The day for me began with a phone call to my son Zander. He turned 3 yesterday and I admit I feel a little guilty for being here in the midst of his birthday. He was so glad to learn that it was his birthday (he had just woken up). He asked about his presents which of course brought a smile to my face. I have two boys, (Carter & Zander) who are being taken care of by my husband Jaryl.... And believe me, I thank God for such a great husband! Actually, we have said prayers for all of our families back home, as it is tough to be away from them for so long.

After a very inspiring sermon yesterday the debates began...and I do mean debates. As Jan and I have mentioned before, up to this point this GC has been much different than what we were told happened four years ago. Yesterday though, the "real" debates on homosexuality began. Without rehashing the same news that all of the other news blogs are telling you, let me just convey some of my feelings.

First, I was so happy and proud to see the Kansas East petition on opposing homophobia and heterosexism pass. Regardless of your beliefs on this issue, I believe it is important for us to stand and say that we are not going to tolerate hate and the practice of violence against those that are homosexual.

But then, as you have heard, the issue of the language in the Discipline was a different story. I, as well as others, were floored when the minority report was adopted. The strategy's by both sides was amazing to watch. Though it was mostly peaceful, there was a sense of disappointment as name calling was done in reference to speaking on the floor. The other day I was walking back for a dinner break when I came across the MOSAIC group on the lawn playing drums and watching people walk by. What I noticed mostly was their smiling faces, their eye contact, and their hellos to those who glanced that direction. They were quick to say hello... A few feet away the protesters on the opposite side were waving flags and yelling out about saving yourself. From a distance, it was a surreal feeling for me. On one side were these smiling faces silently asking us to just realize that we are all the same, and the opposite side looked like they were scared, unsure, and not willing to try to delve into conversation.

It bothered me. It bothers me that there are some of us that are so afraid, that we are not willing to have those conversations. I actually heard someone recently say, "just know that I won't discuss this with you..". To me, that is not "holy conferencing". To me, it only lengthens the rope of misunderstanding.

It bothers me that we live in a society where children are beaten and abused within their homes, and sometimes nothing is said or done..because it is none of our business and it isn't our place! Yet, we believe it is our business, to regulate who and how we love each other? We believe that it is our place, not God' decide who is at the table?

My heart hurts for those that are feeling the pain of knowing that they are not truly accepted. My heart hurts for the belief that it is our call, to play and decide the rules of who can come to the table, and find God's amazing love. I know that not all of you will agree with these points, and I thank God for giving us each the ability to be different. I thank God that we can have our differences, but still love one another. But I do wish that we could find a way to disagree without the hate, without the condescending, and without the judgement. I know people who are struggling with these issues..and they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I love them for who they are, and for who God has made them. We are a canvas of many colors, many designs, and many depths. And I thank God everyday for this. Last night, I too stood in support during the silent protest. I cried, because I think we have taken a step back...and that hurts. What hurts even more is that we see it as a win/lose battle. "Defeated," and "Victory" were all words I heard as I made my way back to the hotel last night. For me personally, it isn't about who won or who lost. It isn't about that. To me, its about the journey. The journey of realizing that it is God, not us, who is ultimately in control. It's not about who is what, does what, or proclaims is about US, as Christians, journeying together, proclaiming God's grace and love, and finding a way to walk hand in hand, regardless of opinion. We are one of God's amazing pieces of art..a mosaic of people, canvassed together, awaiting God's holy arrival. Until then, I hope we can continue to pray, to be in conversation, and to find a way to love one another regardless of our differences.

A Lover of People

Early in my 20’s, before seminary and before serving in the church I took a job with the United Way of Douglas County. This agency was designed to raise funds for a myriad of public agencies through the work of Philanthropy. At the time – I thought that philanthropy meant “to raise money”. What I came to find out was that the origin of the word truly means “lover of people”. That struck me as the perfect job description for my life and ever since I have considered myself a Philanthropist. When my call was solidified, this picture deepened as I learned from Jesus Christ what it meant to be a lover of people.

Yesterday that description was put to the test!

As many of you have read through news reports, followed the live feed or read the hundreds of blogs that have been generated by this conference, yesterday was a tough day. The debate about Human Sexuality took the floor, the level of politics rose and the atmosphere of protest enveloped the room. I was moved by the protest as it was one of the best acts of civil disobedience I have seen. Those in support of embracing homosexuals into the life of the church in all forms – including membership, marriage, ordination and eradicating homophobia – stood as we discerned and debated each petition. The first petition to aid the church in eradicating homophobia passed by a considerable margin, however, all others were not supported.

As the support began to vary on the issues and to be more precise, for the open inclusion of homosexuals in the life of the church, tears began to fall, people began to stand with the protest group and many began to sing “Jesus loves us”, progressively getting louder during the business session.

I stood too.

I stood for many reasons. I stood because I believe that homosexuals should be included in the life of the United Methodist Church and the Church at large. I stood because I want people to know authentically who I am – a person who is heterosexual who supports the efforts of those who are discriminated against whether it be for race, gender, sexual orientation or whatever category human’s come up with. I stood because I am a philanthropist!

This vocation I’ve chosen as it forms my pastorate does not keep me from loving every person I come into contact with whether we agree on topics of debate or not. If you know me – I try to love first and debate in the midst of that love.

This approach may seem weak to some but believe me it is very hard work. Yesterday I felt the unveiling of why I am here. There is much work to be done as a Philanthropist for Christ and I can help through the vocation I profess. I invite you to consider this as your vocation too. In the sobering of this waking day and as I go back to yet more sessions of debate, I still have hope for the United Methodist Church. I still want to be part of this amazing body who struggles with this and many issues for the work of making disciples for the transformation of world. And even though we are very broken I am ever reminded why we need the salvation of Jesus’ Christ’s grace. As a Christian and disciple I believe this IS the first job requirement to be a lover of people.

Grace to all and love, Jan

PS: Eduardo – great job on the floor last night. Please check out his blog to the right – we finally were able to add it!