I enjoy traveling and always appreciate the opportunity to take trips. Prior to coming to Portland, however, I didn’t have a joyful spirit or excitement because issues that General Conference is going to deal with were heavy on my mind. In addition, I knew it would be the longest time I’ve been away from my family. As I write this, I miss my wife, my 14-year-old boy, and Rover (our miniature dachshund).
But each day at General Conference comes with excitement and expectation, and creates new experiences to a first-time attendee. At first, General Conference looked a grand version of annual conference, with diverse spoken languages, people from all over the world, giant projection screens, bishops, meetings, and caffeine to help us stay awake.
While here, I have constantly been reminded that it is worldwide church that we are called to serve and lead. Connectionalism, one of the characteristics of The United Methodist Church, isn’t just found in the Book of Discipline or the Credo confirmation curriculum. It’s also evident when we sing hymns and praise songs in different languages together with our brothers and sisters around the globe and when there are difficulties in waiting for translators to get in position and communicate to delegates about holy conferencing. Despite all of our differences, we worship one God.
Unity is not pursuing sameness. It begins with our attitude of deep listening and humility. I am struck by the spirit of the entire church body in striving to be inclusive.
As a person from another culture where hierarchy is still considered useful to maintain system in order, tireless pursuit of diversity and inclusiveness across race, gender, sex, language, and age is prevailing as a hallmark of our mother church. I am very much convinced this is the strength and hope of our church.
It’s taken a long time to adopt operating rules for the conference, and its process is painfully slow, leaving me to wonder what we have achieved at the end of the day.
As my legislative committee struggled not with electing leaders but with logistics, the secretary of General Conference came in and said, “I know it’s frustrating, but trust me: We will get there.” He was right. It was slow, but my committee was able to move forward with integrity and no voice was left unheard.
My hope is that our beloved church will get there as well.
Rev. Woojae Im is an alternate clergy delegate to General Conference. He serves Osseo United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church