I’m going to miss an important event in Methodist history–the called session of the General Conference in St. Louis, February 23-27.
A lot is at stake as delegates wrestle with ways to deal with the important matters of homosexuality and the interpretation of Scripture. The decisions made will chart the denomination’s future for decades.
Missing the conference makes me sad! I feel some guilt for my absence. Although as a retired bishop I have no official duties, I do feel responsible to be present in support of colleagues and delegates.
I know from previous General Conferences that significant things happen apart from the formal sessions. Old friendships are renewed and new ones formed. The vast diversity of the denomination is on full display.
Great music! Outstanding preaching! Challenging speeches! Profound worship!
I’ll miss all of that!
I must forego the experience. But, I’ll be pursuing my current primary vocational calling, care-partner for my wife of 57 years.
What I will be doing seems small and insignificant when compared to the history-making decisions. Nothing I will be doing will get publicity or make the history books.
I’ll be doing little things–holding Linda’s hand, combing her hair, feeding her, brushing her teeth, assuring her she isn’t alone, just sitting quietly as she sleeps.
There are important connections between what I’ll be doing and what’s happening in St. Louis.
We both will be doing sacred work! Both will involve strong emotions, including grief and disappointment. God will be present with us!
Both have to do with what it means to love! Who to love! How to love! What it means to love faithfully, as Christ loves us!
Love isn’t an abstraction for me. She’s lying in the bed nearby, with her hand in mine. Love, in the final analysis, is an embodied practice rather than a pontifical pronouncement.
I hope love isn’t an abstraction in St. Louis. May it be embodied in
- ears that listen attentively,
- tongues that speak tenderly and truthfully,
- hands that clasp and serve joyfully,
- arms that embrace hospitably,
- hearts that beat compassionately,
- minds that exhibit the mind that was in Christ Jesus,
- actions that manifest the breadth of God’s love and justice.
I won’t be trying to convince Linda that she is wrong, or less than, or inadequate, or sinful, or outside the norm.
Instead, I will be trying to empathetically enter her world, see the world as she is seeing it, assure her that she is valued amid her confusion, and loved unconditionally by God and by me.
I genuinely pray that what happens in St. Louis will be akin to what will be happening in our home, and in the countless homes across our world as people seek to love one another as Christ loves us, regardless of
- political affiliations,
- theological perspectives,
- sexual orientation, or
- physical and intellectual capacities.
I won’t be physically present in St. Louis, but I’ll be watching and praying. . . . and continuing to love!