It's 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 10, 2016. I'm in a hotel room in downtown Portland, Oregon, getting ready to jump on the MAX and head up to the Convention Center to get started with the 2016 General Conference of the United Methodist Church.
It's the first time I've been here, and I'm really excited and anxious and nervous and eager and scared about what is about to happen. I've heard such a variety of stories from those who've been before.
As an alternate delegate, I'll be sitting and watching a lot. That's okay with me. I'm keeping my eyes and ears open to see and hear what there is to see and hear. And I'll try to share it as honestly as I can. I hope to write a few posts here, and I'll also be tweeting @randrew and sharing pics on Instagram.
It's kind of amazing. On the train yesterday, I met some people here to help with translation; they were from several different countries in Africa. To think about the thousands of miles they've traveled to be here, to sit beside delegates, who have also traveled thousands of miles, and help them understand what is happening, so that we together can be the church that God has called us to be ... it kind of blows my mind, you know?
The national news leading up to this day has been all about marriage and ordination, two of the most sacred acts that the church does. Specifically, the questions of who can be married to whom and what qualifies a person to be ordained are front and center this time around. (Again.)
Yet a lot has changed since 2012 when General Conference last met. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the United States. Will United Methodist pastors be officially permitted to marry same-sex couples two weeks from now? Many United Methodist clergy and clergy candidates have come out of the closet, including 126 in the past week, in two different very public acknowledgements. Will they still be officially "clergy" two weeks from now?
And significantly, how exactly will we as a body converse with one another about these questions? Will there be grace? Will we embody Romans 12 values? Will the Holy Spirit move, and will we recognize it if that happens?
There are at this point, a LOT of questions. And to be honest, two weeks from now there will likely also be a LOT of questions left on the table. And somehow, some way, in the midst of that mess, we will still be the church. This I believe with all my heart.