17 June 2008

Annual Conference, Day One

Here’s your update on the North Georgia United Methodist Church's Annual Conference proceedings from the first day. If I were writing this based solely on the proceedings themselves, I probably wouldn’t have much to say. It’s a very low-key year, particularly in comparison with last year’s election of delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conferences in which I took part as a candidate.

Perhaps the highlight of today’s proceedings (from my perspective, of course) was a brief presentation on the Nothing But Nets campaign – go check out the website http://www.nothingbutnets.net. Hopefully many of you are already familiar with this great program (when I led a youth program at my church earlier this year, several of our youth already knew about it), but for those of you who are not and don’t want to read the website, it’s a program that distributes insecticide-treated mosquito nets throughout Africa and other regions of the world where malaria is rampant. For $10 the program can purchase a bed net that protects a family of four as they sleep, deliver it to the family, and provide relevant instruction on how to properly use the net. This is a bigger deal than you may think (and bigger than I used to think before I learned about it last year) – roughly 500 million people around the world are infected with malaria each year, and about a million people around the world die from malaria each year, or one person every 30 seconds! To put it bluntly and representatively, a $10 contribution means that four people in Africa probably DON’T DIE from malaria. How else can you save four lives with ten dollars? The afternoon turned into a bit of one-upmanship as various congregations and districts pledged $1,000 here and $2,000 there toward the campaign. By the end of the afternoon we had already raised over $100,000 in pledges.

No real controversial resolutions to report on, although we do now have one before us that would call on United Methodists to resist efforts by the Georgia Legislature to allow the carrying of concealed weapons in houses of worship. I can only hope this won’t prove to be a controversial measure...but if it is, at least I know one guy in my congregation who has a few sidearms he could start packing on Sunday morning.

In other news from today, we heard a presentation on General Conference from our delegation’s representatives. Basically, the representatives congratulated our delegation on being strong leaders at General Conference, standing up for what was right and true and good and all things genuinely Christian, and fighting back against the forces from the gates of hell that wanted to impose their evil reform and change upon the pure church. As you can tell, not so inspiring for me, especially since I'm apparently one of the minions from the gates of hell in that pantheon. Oh, and I finally elicited a response in the latest edition of the Wesleyan Christian Advocate - apparently someone found my (and another writer's) letter too offensive to let pass without comment:

TENNILLE – They will never give up will they? Folks like J.B. Gordan and Dan Browning will continue to push the homosexual issue until they succeed in splitting the church. Wouldn’t it be less painful for all of us if they simply started they own church or just joined the Universalists. They can interpret the scriptures any way they want. Mr. Gordan would no longer have to be concerned with super delegates like Eddie Fox and Mr. Browning could be a part of a church where everyone agreed with his position - 100%. I thank God that we still have men of intergrity like Rev. Fox and Bishop Davis who will stand for truth.
Attempts to equate the homosexual issue with slavery and women’s rights are weak. We all want to interpret scripture in a way that best suits our positions, but we can’t argue with anatomy or procreation. Allowing our desires to overcome the way we were made is what got us into trouble from the beginning. I suspect that people will continue to give in to the socially acceptable position that sex between to consenting adults, no matter their gender, is fine. May God have mercy on us. The day when the language in the Discipline is changed concerning this particular matter is the day I will be called to serve elsewhere.

Rev. Jim W. Dominey
Pastor, Piney Mount UMC

Hmmm, where to begin to reply to this? By the way, I promise that all of the typos contained therein were in the original letter as published. I suppose I could take issue with the writer's classification of me as a Universalist - although I think he really meant to call me a Unitarian. And no, I don't think that even if I founded my own church I'd have one where everyone agreed with me 100%. I never equated "the homosexual issue" with slavery - and what is "the homosexual issue" anyway? Is it too high prices for Bette Midler concerts? A lack of quality hair care products? I haven't a clue what to say about how "we can't argue with anatomy or procreation"...best to just let that one go. As for allowing our desires to overcome the way we were made, I agree - people shouldn't allow their desires to be conformingly-heterosexual Christians to overcome the fact that God made them to be loving homosexuals. And finally, there's the writer's last line. for which I must give him prophetic props - at least he is able to foresee the day when that Discipline language will be changed. I hope that I can maintain that optimistic attitude as well.

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