Praying for the Church

Of the half dozen public witness actions I participated in these last two weeks, Thursday morning’s prayer witness felt like one of the most affective. It wasn’t really effective, since that morning the General Conference did end up retaining the language in the 2008 Discipline about homosexuality being “incompatible with Christian Teaching”, but it felt like we were doing exactly what we needed to be doing as witnesses: being present with the delegates, and praying for them and the Church we all love. The previous day, General Conference had passed the “PlanUMC” legislation to reorganize the general church structure to make it more “nimble” in a way which many of us see as making it more totalitarian.* So I was not just praying for my church in terms of inclusiveness, but also in terms of accountability and mission.

Common Witness volunteers placed ourselves around the bar of the plenary floor, and we stood in prayer all morning as the delegates debated various pieces of legislation before them. Here’s me!**

mary-s-s-600x400

We prayed from the beginning of the session, but once the discussion of homosexuality began, it was especially poignant for me to be there praying for this my church. I lifted my hands in blessing to speakers on either side of the fence, with a similar prayer, “God, be with this person and open their heart to your Spirit.”

One delegate asked for a point of clarification. When he started his question with “I would like to clarify the extent of the bar of the conference,” I was worried he’d be speaking in order to get us to back away from the curtain which separated us from the floor.

His reason for asking was so that he would know if he could join us, to stand at the margins, and still participate in voting on the legislation. When it was clarified that anyone within that curtain could still vote, scores of delegates, including the entire Pacific Northwest delegation stood to join us at the edges of the floor.

It was beautiful.

 (Photos by Patrick Scriven, used with as much permission as the photo *of* me above was used on the pnw website–I promise to ask once he’s off his airplane)

*PlanUMC was ruled unconstitutional on Friday afternoon. More on that later.

**The whistle you can see hanging from my neck is a part of an ongoing action to encourage the presiding bishops to hold delegates accountable to the guidelines for Holy Conferencing. Bishops are supposed to interrupt delegates who use hate speech, or speech which dehumanizes persons. If something dehumanizing was said on the floor without the presiding bishop asking the delegate to re-phrase their statement, a whistle would be blown. I was not the whistler, but extra whistles were distributed to prevent the whistler from being escorted out.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Joseph Farnes on May 5, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    It sounds like it’s been a very rough General Conference for you. I’m sorry, my friend. Hugs and prayers, and the peace of our Lord be with you and the rest of my Methodist sisters and brothers.

    Reply

    • Oh, sweetie. It was tough, but actually a lot better for me than last time. I knew what to expect and how to prepare this time.

      Reply

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