By Rev. Jeff Ozanne
It is easy to get depressed at General Conference. Every step to make things more efficient seems to be met with questions and delays. Legislation is tabled indefinitely (essentially voting it down) and then taken off the table just minutes later (bringing it back into consideration). Even the simplest actions often take forever, and it can be easy to wonder about the point of any of it.
In spite of all that, as a first-time attendee (and delegate) to General Conference, I am filled with hope. My hope does not come from the process, or even the results, but from the passion that occurs in the midst of all of it. With 864 voting delegates, the process is bound to be cumbersome and frustrating. Yet each of these people brings with them a deep and abiding passion for the United Methodist Church. This is what gives me hope.
I am struck again and again by the diversity in our connection. We come from different continents, different languages, different experiences. Church on Sunday looks different and sounds different for each of us. What makes us a united church is a deep passion for our experience of what it is to be United Methodist.
What gives me hope is the joy and laughter I see as members of our denomination gather to talk and dream about what our shared future as a worldwide church can look like. There is something powerful about hearing scripture and prayer in so many languages and yet knowing we all experience the Spirit in our hearts. When we take the time to speak and to listen, we find reasons to be hopeful.
It is easy to measure General Conference by what does or does not get passed. We can judge it by what changes are made. When we do that, it is easy to lose hope. We lose sight of the deep passion that people have for our church and the work we are doing.
What gives me hope is being reminded over and over that even though we are divided on many issues and the process we go through is clumsy and cumbersome, we do it out of a love for a church that we call home and a church that we believe is part of God’s work in the world.
That gives me hope.
Rev. Jeff Ozanne is an alternate clergy delegate to General Conference. He serves Willmar United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church