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So much more

Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey reflects on the awesome significance of General Conference.

Michigan Area

At this very moment, United Methodists are gathering in Portland, Oregon, from around the world to participate in the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church.

I love hearing different languages, seeing new faces, rejoicing with old friends, and rediscovering acquaintances from the past. There is excitement and anticipation in the air as we come to this place to worship … debate … fellowship … and listen to new ideas from great minds across this world-wide denomination.

This is my eighth General Conference.  That hardly seems possible – even to me!  And yet each time, from 1988 to the present, I have come with a sense of awe in the task that is before us. And each time I have left this gathering with both a sense of joy in what we had accomplished, as well as frustration with what we had not.

And each time I had prayed that God might be praised through it all.

This year, particularly, I also sense a great deal of anxiety and fear around what might – or might not – happen.

I have never been able to predict the actions of the General Conference – and I won’t this year.  But what I DO know is that those who gather here are good, faithful Christians – each trying in his or her own way to do what they believe God is calling them to do.

And I know this, as well – that no matter what happens at General Conference in these next 10 days, God is still working through The United Methodist Church to do great things in this hurting and hungry world.  No matter what might happen to our particular project or issue, God is so much more.

But, The United Methodist Church is also so much more than simply the “yes” or “no” vote on any particular issue!

We are the hands that bring hope and healing and recovery and restoration to places across this world.

We are the feet that carry us to new places, and walk with those who are discouraged or doubting.

We are the thousands of congregations who worship and pray and are challenged to do more every Sunday – or Wednesday – or Saturday.

We are the millions of United Methodists who, week after week, faithfully serve in food banks, or free stores, or homeless shelters, or tutoring programs, or Bible studies, or hospice programs, or Campus ministries, or camps.

That’s who we are as United Methodists – and as The United Methodist Church!

Yes, we are the General Conference … but we are so much more!

Hear these words from I John 3:3:

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed …”

Dear Friends, as we hear the news of the happenings at General Conference, remember that God isn’t finished with us, yet.  But we are all still God’s children – worthy of God’s love and our love.  We may not agree with all that happens at the 2016 General Conference, but our beloved denomination is so much more.

On March 2, 1791, as John Wesley lay dying, he lifted his arms and raised his feeble voice and said, “Best of all, God is with us.”

May we remember those words of wisdom.

May we offer our prayers for this General Conference.

And may we, too, remember, “Best of all, God is with us.”

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