Witnessing General Conference for the first time has been a wonderful experience. It has been a chance to be reminded of the many ways our denomination is at work in the world and to learn about the new things that we are doing. I am deeply appreciative for the honor of representing our conference as a reserve delegate.
My first experiences of General Conference filled me with hope. But I would be lying if I said every day left me feeling that way. There were times that we seemed to do nothing in our plenary sessions or spent time quibbling about rules. Like many other United Methodists around the world, I was saddened and troubled as rumors spread that our church would be splitting. I am personally glad that at least for today we have found a way to remain together as a denomination. The conversations around these issues have not been easy. In spite of that, I still find reasons for hope.
We are a diverse denomination, and there are times when this can make the work we do hard. One day, we managed to pass two resolutions that come from very different points on the political spectrum. We supported withdrawing from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice and also supported single-payer health care. Our positions are nuanced, and sometimes seemingly conflicting, but that is because we are a broad and diverse denomination.
At the end of General Conference, am I as hopeful as when I first arrived? I think I am. There are great divides in our denomination. We are not all of one mind on many issues. These divides can make life as a church hard.
What General Conference has reminded me, however, is that we are at our best when we join together to do things. We are at our best when we extend grace instead of judgement. We are at our best when we find ways to hold in tension our differences and follow the challenge of Wesley to “love alike” and live into our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
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