Annual Conference (AC, for future reference) began with the 42 lay candidates for Delegate to General & Jurisdictional Conference addressing the assembled laity, who numbered roughly 1,000. We each had two minutes to speak, and unlike most of the candidates I had crafted an entirely new address for this forum. I've reprinted it below for your reading pleasure. Most of the other candidates, with a few noteworthy exceptions, repeated the same old tirades, bemoaning the declining membership of our denomination and laying the blame for said decline squarely at the feet of the "ultra-liberals". The conservative bloc was out in force this morning along the sidewalks surrounding the convention center, handing out brochures and "voter's guides" to entering delegates (they're not allowed to distribute campaign literature inside the building, but no such restriction applies to the surrounding grounds). Their main concerns appear to be sexual orientation, abortion, "fiscal restraint" (keeping more money in the local churches and not sending so much to the liberally-inclined national church boards and agencies), and "fair and proportional representation" (getting more clout for the North Georgia Conference).
We cast our first set of votes for delegates (both lay and clergy) this afternoon. Unlike the lay candidates, who make their candidacy known, the clergy do not have declared candidates, and so their ballots contain all 999(!) eligible ordained elders. Results will be made known first thing in the morning, followed immediately by another round of voting. Voting rounds apparently will become fast and furious as we narrow the field of candidates and many of the slots are filled. I'll keep you posted, and will be sure to let you know if I manage to garner anything beyond the low double-digits.
Also today was the annual memorial communion service, honoring those clergy and clergy spouses who have died in the past year. Rachel and Patrick were able to join Rex and me here for that service.
And here's that speech of mine from this morning - enjoy!
Sisters and brothers, good morning! My name is Dan Browning, and I want to talk with you about my faith.
Back at our first Candidates Forum about a week and a half ago, Brother Joe Whittemore said that most all of the votes a Delegate casts at General Conference are based on his or her theology. I agree, so here’s my theology in a nutshell.
God is love. Love God. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
I am convinced that the message of the Gospel is a message of radical, abundant, sacrificial love, and one of radical welcoming and inclusion. And yes, just so you can quote me on the record, I firmly believe that this radical love and inclusion should extend fully to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, just as they are.
Friends, the Book of Discipline is not Holy Scripture. We change the Discipline regularly, as we grow in our collective wisdom and knowledge and discernment as the Church. We stand on the shoulders of the saints who have gone before us, and we rejoice in that, but we must not be content to live in the past. If the Church is to truly transform the world and to manifest the life of the gospel in the world - as we are called to do - then we must reclaim our prophetic voice and be willing to speak truth to power, whether that power resides in our government, our society, or yes, even in our own church hierarchy. And as we take up that sacred calling, we must always be careful to “walk humbly with our God”. Thank you.