Upon the report of the Resolutions Committee, we entertained a number of resolutions - position statements on matters of varying kinds. Any member, congregation or group with the Conference may bring a resolution for consideration.
The Resolutions Committee receives these, insures that they are in proper order, and offers a word of concurrence or nonconcurrence to the Conference. In effect, this group determines if the resolutions brought is something they believe the Conference should support or not.
Sometimes the resolutions are position statements on the current issues of the day, sometimes they deal with reaffirmation of doctrinal issues.
One time, we had to entertain a resolution from a member of one of our local churches seeking to change the language of the Apostle's Creed - seems he wasn't too keen on the words "holy catholic church."
My Lord, we stink at teaching in our churches, don't we?
We obviously voted that one down - who are we to change the language of a foundational creed of the church?
You get the point.
This week, we had before us a resolution seeking to claim the climate crises as an issue of faith for the church and that we, the church, should see our role as God's children as being good stewards of creation.
Within this resolution was data pulled from The United Nations on the state of the planet. It is data that states without any equivocation whatsoever, that there is a change occurring in our planet.
It also draws the correlation that humanity's industrialization is hastening what is a naturally occurring process. More than hastening it, humanity is causing it to be far more dramatic than what it would be otherwise.
So, what would be the prophetic stance of the Memphis Annual Conference?
Well, as is any delegate's right, one of my beloved clergy brothers rose to offer an amendment to the well written resolution. His amendment was to gut the "data" found in the resolution and leave it as saying, in short - "something may or may not be happening to the planet, but we promise to be good stewards of God's creation anyway." (a Jeffords paraphrase)
No way this is going to pass. Not a chance.
And not with any help from me.
I heard a clergy brother spout Rush Limbaugh's talking points that all this data amounts to "junk science" (that's a quote, friends), and that there is not a scientific consensus, and that we should keep the politics out of this issue.
Strangely, for some, scientific data, with overwhelming consensus, is political because, if it's about the planet, and about global warming, it must, therefore, be from Al Gore.
Hence, so their rationale goes, I must reject it out of hand.
Another conversation or two later, in other contexts, I heard another delegate say, "is there some way we can be relevant in the world without being partisan?"
"The Gospel is unapologetically partisan, and so should we be."
And friends, I believe that with all my heart. I really do.
You cannot read the Gospels of Jesus Christ and not be taken by the overt nature of its confrontation with the principalities and powers of its time - Rome, and that cannot be done in a nonpartisan way.
It is a logical and spiritual fallacy to believe that religion should not be a part of politics. If you think Jesus was not as political as he was religious, confronting both the State and the religious leaders of the day, then you ain't reading the Gospel.
But sure enough, there are those churches, if not most churches, who worship the American freedom to worship as you choose rather than the be guided by where that worship choice leads.
Oh, it can be done, and is being done. And to those churches we must be reminded of the Revelation to John, in which, in a letter to the Church at Laodicea we find the following:
‘I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3.15-16Or, worst yet, what of those churches who claim to be nonpartisan, but hide their true agenda by some other systemic means?
You don't think that's happening? Wake up, people!
Also at AC '07, on the first day of regular business, before we really got started, another delegate rose to make a motion that all delegates running for election to General Conference should be surveyed on their stand on "controversial issues" confronting the Church.
And I'll be damned if that didn't pass, too. Barely.
The argument? All I have in common with these folks I'm electing is Jesus Christ.
As if that's not enough.
Call this what you will - this is a litmus test to perpetuate certain positions in the Church from being talked about or reformed.
No one ever raised what the "controversial issues" were, but c'mon, we get it.
It'll be overturned because it's illegal in the Church's constitution. One AC cannot bind the actions of another, and, our Judicial Council has ruled that while a delegate can be asked their position on any issue, the delegate is not obliged to give an answer.
And it would have been helpful if the Chair of the Conference had recognized that - would've saved us an hour of parliamentary drivel.
So, can we be partisan and not endorse particular political candidates?
I think so. In fact, I think we have to be.
The partisanship of the Gospel is allied to the issues of justice, the poor, the marginalized - not candidates, and not parties. It is issue based on the things that matter to God, not what matters to you. Make no mistake about it, the Gospel will not be mocked, and those who co-opt it for political purposes will, in the end, be exposed.
Oh, and by the by, human sexuality has very little to do with the Gospel. I can only surmise that these are the "controversial issues" they want to survey delegates on.
The Gospel has another list of controversial issues - faithfulness, integrity, mercy, love - an advocate's voice for those whose voices are drowned out the the masses - you know stuff like that.
It's the kind of thing to make the religious sort of Jesus' day scoff - "He eats with tax collectors and sinners."
And a Church that can begin to do that will understand that this is not about political parties - it's about the radical nature of the Gospel that shames every political group for their ultimate self-servitude, including political groups within our very own beloved United Methodist Church.