I am heading to the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. I am not a delegate, so I have not taken the time to wade through the more than 1,200 pages of legislation being proposed. I am going to learn how we can best host General Conference when it comes to Minneapolis in 2020. And what I most want to know is: How do you create an environment where people can be at their best?
I remember Mayor R.T. Rybak addressing the General Commission as it was considering Minneapolis as a future location for General Conference. He said Minneapolis is the kind of city where people can come and have important conversations. I loved that he understood what we needed to be about as a church.
There are some significant conversations that need to take place in The United Methodist Church, and most have to do with what kind of church we want to be and how we will love, learn, and live together. To be honest, I have been dreading General Conference 2016 because I have found the legislative process to not always be helpful in trying to find a way forward, and there is a building pressure cooker around declining membership, full inclusion, and the challenges of being a global church.
Some days, I despair that we will make any progress at all! And yet, nothing matters more to me than us learning how to live together in this global, diverse world of ours. We have never been more dependent on each other for our well being. What I have come to realize is that the 11 days of General Conference represent a microcosm of the world we live in.
So my hope and prayer as I wing my way to Portland: that we can truly be a community of love and forgiveness, and by doing so, we will be a witness to the world on how diverse people who do not think alike are committed to loving alike, and treating one another with mutual respect. And as that peace ballad says: Let it begin with me.
As I go to learn the tasks of hospitality, I will seek to be a person of peace, grace, and hope in the midst of what I suspect may be some very anxious times, trusting that how I and others show up and are present to one another matters deeply in creating the kind of environment where we can be at our best and allow God to be God and lead this church into the future that God would have for us.
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church