We are in Tampa for the Council of Bishops meeting to be followed by General Conference. Our emotions are running like a roller coaster.
We are visiting, for a couple of days, with our daughter and family before all the work begins—a definite emotional upswing. We anticipate seeing friends that we have not seen in several years—another definite upswing. Then we look at long hours of meetings—a definite downer. We foresee a number of people coming and expecting to be heard and understood, but unwilling to extend the same right and privilege to others—a definite downer. We are in a beautiful location where we can see the beach, the inviting water, a beckoning call to relax—an amazing temptation.
The truth is that all of these aspects are peripheral to the reason for gathering. We anticipate some of the most moving, inviting and challenging worship that one could crave. We await presentations demonstrating the impact of the United Methodist Church on the world and the transformation of people because of the mission and outreach of congregations sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. We look forward to hearing reports of the phenomenal impact the United Methodist Church is having in defeating the killer disease of malaria. We wait for the news of new communities of faith being started and individuals coming to faith in Jesus Christ, in the United States and throughout the world. Our hearts soar as we contemplate all the accomplishments in the past four years.
This General Conference holds greater potential for focusing the attention of each local church to the primary mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ than any General Conference in the past fifty years. Few doubt that major changes will occur in the structure and functioning of General Boards and Agencies. These agencies will assume greater responsibility and accountability for focusing attention, resources, and energy to assist local churches in the accomplishment of their mission. What those structures will be and what resources will be provided will be strongly debated, but the changes will be made. (I have some personal opinions about those, but the delegates will decide.)
One thing stands out above all the rest; we gather, seek and expect the leading of the Holy Spirit. We gather anticipating God has a bright future filled with hope for The United Methodist Church, both in the United States and around the world. Our emotions flow like a roller coaster, but God is leading and guiding in the midst of all that happens. We are not alone. God is with us.