General Conference 2012 ~ Random Thoughts
Sunday, April 22 ~ The view out my hotel window is gorgeous and I already have the feeling that I won’t get to enjoy it except in the dark after about 10pm.
I’m totally bummed that I forgot my camera. I can take pictures on my iPhone, but I’m never as happy with the way they come out (probably user issues). I’m pretty good with taking pictures on my iPad, but look like an idiot when doing it. Now that I think of it, looking like an idiot hasn’t ever really stopped me from doing anything.
I’m bummed about forgetting my camera, but ashamed that I forgot my Bible (except the version on my iPhone). But I have my Discipline! I guess I’m walking proof that Jason Vickers is right.
Monday, April 23 ~ The Council of Bishops has assigned me to the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. We began our work this morning – voting on officers. Odd that over half of the people on this committee are newly appointed but are now expected to vote on people they don’t know to serve in a position for four years. Basically the same people were reelected to serve again. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, just interesting.
Best news so far: Our Nothing But Nets campaign has been instrumental in cutting the death rate from malaria in half.
Best first encounter: As I sat waiting for the beginning of the Central Conference meeting, I caught the eye of Alexis Nzabonimpa from the Gisenyi District in Rwanda who greeted me with a joyful smile. He came over and introduced himself and we shared about ourselves. Our time of getting to know one another ended with Alexis offering an amazing prayer of thanksgiving for our meeting. Afterwards, he said, “I am always so glad to meet a fellow servant in the Lord! Working together for the Lord brings such joy – like being in heaven!” That provided me a fresh context for the next two weeks.
There really is some theological stuff going on here, I just don’t think it will make it out of the legislative committees. Case in point: A Declaration from the Church in Africa (Petition #20921), which will come before the Faith and Order legislative group. This declaration was brought before the 2008 General Conference but no action was taken. Here are some interesting excerpts:
We are convinced that our connectedness has only been possible and solidified over the years because of our devoted loyalty to Jesus Christ as our only Savior and risen Lord. Our uncompromising belief in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and our obedience to the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), is the primary reason for our commitment to “making disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
The Church in Africa believes the totality of the Holy Scriptures (the 66 canonical books) as the Word of God for belief, obedience and practice. And, hence, we believe in the exclusive claim of Jesus Christ as the only “Way, Truth and Life” to eternality with God (John 14:6); and of his eternal co-existence and of one substance with God the Father and the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1-2, 26-27; John 6:5-15).
As we conclude the 2004-2008 quadrennium, and look forward to the commencement of a new one (2009- 2012), it is incumbent upon us, as a global Christian community to evaluate the past, understand the present and thereby anticipate a realistic future of the Church of Jesus Christ which he has entrusted to our care. Against this background, we wish to make the following inquiry for our consideration: How well is global United Methodism doing in ministry? How spiritually healthy is the Church? Is it growing, declining or stagnant? What is the Church’s priority? How does that priority measure up with its call by the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the Great Commission? How many Churches have been planted during this past quadrennium? Have we as United Methodists, along with feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, building hospitals and schools, and responding to the physical needs of the poor, intentionally and significantly invested in evangelistic outreach, and discipleship ministries resulting in the planting of new churches for new converts?
The above inquiry is based on the fact that we of the Central Conferences of Africa are deeply concerned that the global United Methodist Church is beginning to speak with different languages, and not with the common speech that presents Jesus Christ as the Good News of salvation, our only Lord, and only Savior. As a result, the global witness of United Methodism is being threatened with the proclamation of different kinds of “gospels.”
We in Africa are deeply concerned that some Euro-Western Churches seem to be deserting the biblical path of Church planting, disciple-making, of prayer, and evangelistic and missional endeavors to an inward focus. This inward focus of some Churches has almost changed the biblical mandate from the “Great Commission” to the “Great Omission.”… Five years before his death John Wesley entertained the fear that in decades to come “the people called Methodist” would not cease to exist but would exist merely as a dead sect, having the form of godliness but no power to live for and proclaim Christ, unless they held fast to the Doctrine, Discipline and Spirit with which they first set out. We are painfully saddened that these current trends within the Euro-Western Church are, unfortunately, confirming the fears of John Wesley.
We in Africa hear the lamenting voice of the Apostle Paul when he says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all” (Gal.1:6-7a). By such actions and attitudes towards the Gospel we are throwing both our adults and our children into confusion and, without words, telling them that Christianity does not have all the answers to their spiritual longing…
Therefore, we declare:
That the Lord God Almighty is the creator of heaven and earth and everything that is in it (Gen. 1:1; Psalm 24:1-3); That God made humanity in his own image and set humanity apart to be his vicegerent to manage and care for his creation (Gen. 2:15-17); That humanity willingly made a choice to sin against God, beginning with our original parents, Adam and Eve. As a result sin entered into the human race, bringing all humanity and all creation under the damnation of sin (Gen. 3:1-7, 14-19; Rom 3:10-12,23); That “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him might not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16-17; Rom 8:1); That Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, voluntarily submitted Himself to be crucified for us, under Roman authority, as a sacrificial offering, taking upon Himself the guilt of all humanity, standing in our place, atoning for our sins, forsaken as a criminal on a rugged Roman cross (Is. 52:13-53:12, John 10:18); That Jesus Christ, the Lion of Judah, arose literally and physically from the dead, victoriously resurrected to life in indestructible bodily form, presenting himself to hundreds of eyewitnesses over 40 days (John 20:19-30); That Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, literally ascended into the clouds and now sits on High as our Intercessor at the right hand of the Father (Acts 1:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:1-8); That Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega, will literally return on the clouds to reign with his faithful and true Church, his Bride and Body, for all who have been rescued by his atoning death (Acts 1:10-11; Rev. 21:1- 8); That anyone who will confess that Jesus is Lord and believe of the heart that God raised him from the dead will be saved, resurrected bodily like Him to live and reign forever with the Lord (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
The declaration goes on to address a host of other issues such as evil, the authority of and faithfulness to scripture, spiritual decadence, use of our tithes and offerings commensurate with the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ worldwide, the equipping of seminaries, evangelism, and just and proportionate representation – to name just a few.
The Church in Africa is deeply worried about all of us Euro-Westerners. I’d like to hear more about that, but I don’t think I’ll get the chance. Petition #20921 is really long and cumbersome to read. I’ve also been told it’s misplaced. That likely indicates it probably won’t get very far – no sense talking about something that’s cumbersome and misplaced.
Alexis provided me a fresh context. I need that as the work begins. It really is a joyous thing to come together with other servants of the Lord. I just hope that the work we do really is the Lord’s and not just our own.
UMC General Conference 2012