Below is Bishop Peter Weaver’s Partners in Ministry letter, always worth a read:
♦ GENERAL CONFERENCE IS DONE….BUT GOD IS NOT DONE! Thank you for all the prayers and notes that supported our New England Delegation, me, and our whole General Conference as we met in Tampa for two weeks (Linda and I were there three weeks because of the Council of Bishops). As I mentioned in my Episcopal Address to the Conference as it began, the Spanish called the tidewaters splashing up against the Tampa Convention Center, not Tampa Bay, but “Bahia del Espiritu Santo” – the Bay of the Holy Spirit. The challenge for each of us and each of our churches is to risk letting the Holy Spirit get a hold of us and lead us where God wants us to go…even when we are fearful or resistant.
While for me, and many, some deep disappointments came out of General Conference, there were nevertheless some wonderful “splashes” of the Holy Spirit. Let me share a few:
* Our New England delegation contributed much to the Conference in leadership, debate, and spirit. We made a big “splash” for our size!
* The delegation tied prayer ribbons to a cross and gave it to me, along with their prayer-blessings, before I delivered the Episcopal Address. I carried it in my pocket (and heart) the whole time.
* Delegations from outside the United States comprised 40% of the Conference. It was a great joy to see us becoming more and more a truly global church. It will test the commitments of all to be a truly inclusive church respecting all of the diversity that being global brings, but then our Oneness is not because we all agree, or even like each other, but because we are One in Christ.
* In my Episcopal Address, I told the story of those from the Congo who survived a horrendous massacre in the Gatumba Refugee Camp and who are now part of the Contoocook U.M. Church in New Hampshire. I told of the Congolese teenagers who decided to become disciples of Jesus Christ and the Sunday we processed through town and baptized five of them in the Contoocook River. Four of those young people came to Tampa, so I could introduce them to the Conference. You can see them and the address by clicking onhttp://www.neumc.org/pages/detail/728. This was a Holy Spirit moment, but what most people do not know is that when these young men were flying to Tampa and transferring planes in Washington, D.C., they encountered an older woman who had been stranded alone in the airport for three days. She was from the Congo, spoke no English…and was on her way to General Conference! She was lost and confused and these young men….with the spirit of Christ (and the gift of speaking French) took care of her until she was safely reunited with the Congo delegation in Tampa. God’s Spirit was moving.
* The “splashes” of God’s Spirit were also evident in great times of worship daily with morning devotional centering, at noon with communion, and in the evening with creative music and great preaching. It was evident in “holy conferencing” as I would see people I knew disagreed in conversation with each other about how to find common ground. When people were in pain, people were there for each other. One of my friends described the amazing insights he gained from getting to know and work with a delegate from Africa. I saw a couple of delegates during a break one day simply sitting by the water with their hands stretched out and open in meditative prayer…”Come Holy Spirit”.
* To be sure there were many things about General Conference, and frankly our own lives, that remind us that we are a long way from the perfection about which Wesley (and Jesus) spoke. One of the most quoted lines from the Episcopal Address was, “If God can bring to life the crucified Christ, then surely God can bring to life a calcified church.” I deeply believe this, but we must again and again give ourselves over to God’s Will and into God’s keeping whether as disciples, congregations, or as a denomination. As we drove away from Tampa, I thought of the 45,000 United Methodist congregations around the world that would gather millions of people together on Sunday, including 640 congregations in New England. They would worship God, lift up prayers of joy and concerns, listen for God’s Word for the living of these days, sing with gusto songs of faith, share the buzz of Christian fellowship, and open themselves to the splash of the Holy Spirit moving us out into the world to make a difference for the sake of Christ. Most of those congregations know little or nothing about General Conference. It’s not that General Conference and what was done or not done is unimportant; it’s simply that what is most important is what is done or not done for Christ right where you and I are living out our faith today.
God is not done. Stay open to the splash of the Holy Spirit…Pentecost is coming!
♦ SPEAKING OF SPLASHES: After listening to my serious droning on about General Conference someone asked, “Did you have any fun in Florida?” I could tell they were concerned about my soul…and sanity. Linda and some of the other bishops’ spouses had the same concern, so on a day the bishops were free, they planned a trip to Busch Gardens…including the roller coasters and some water rides. We rode the original wooden coaster, which seemed a lot like General Conference – a little bit creaky, at times shaky (would it hold together?), with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns, and sometimes jerky. We rode a rough water rafting ride, which again seemed a lot like General Conference – you can’t escape without getting dumped on, there’s a lot of going around in circles, and when it’s all over you are totally soaked clear through in ways that are very uncomfortable and from which you are not sure you will ever recover, but you are glad for the ride. Why? Because you have drawn closer with those with whom you share a common journey, and you share the blessed assurance, “be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you”. And in that, there is, if not fun, joy!
For these reasons, also, I am grateful to be a Partner in this Ministry with you.
Grace and Peace,