No Fruit on the Vine

My heart went out to Dr. Rebekah Miles, a professor at SMU who was a delegate from the Arkansas Conference to General Conference, (and who also happens to be a cohort of mine in that we were both “P.K.s” at Arkadelphia FUMC). On the last evening of General Conference, she wrote,

“We are in our last evening. Everyone has been tired today and ready to leave. Our key initiative from these past 11 days was restructure of our church. Soon before our dinner recess we learned that our judicial council ruled the entire plan unconstitutional. That threw everything into chaos. Now we are trying to feel our way through the mess. We are in chaos. People are rowdy and disorderly. They are laughing and hooting and calling out angry comments. They are challenging the rulings of the chair and making inappropriate comments. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Reflecting on my own failure and that of the entire General Conference, I have absolutely no idea what to say. I’ll just leave you with the text I’m carrying home with me – Habakkuk 3.

“Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines;
though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation.”

I wrote back to her the following:
“Bless you, sister. Tonight I have been trying to reconcile the week’s (and today’s) happenings with the lectionary Gospel passage that I am drawing from on Sunday. “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Does this implicate GC2012? Based on my experience at GC2004, I would have to acknowledge that many (perhaps a majority) of delegates come to GC having been elected by agenda driven politics. If this is still the case, then it is unsurprising that we would eventually see a “chaotic void” resulting there, since agenda driven politics were never the domain of Christ–although they did engineer his death on a cross! I think the more hopeful tone you take is more helpful–after all, we know what God does with “chaotic voids.” Perhaps another verse from the scripture is a better suited to the goings-on. “Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. ” May it be so. Thank you for your time and attention to the future of the church. God’s ways are mysterious. Perhaps we may see even more fruit come ripe after this is all said and done.”

I share this all as a way of reporting not only some of the “business” of General Conference but also some of the prayerful attention to the matters of the church that occurs there and afterward. It’s not just a “convention,” it is a place where delegates from the entire Global Church invite The Potter to “spin the wheel” and shape us into a vessel of life and hope for the world. That’s anything but “conventional.” I’ll comment more on some of the details of legislation coming out of the General Conference at the Second Sunday Series in June, where we’ll also have fun playing “The Quadrilateral Game,” and hear about news from our Annual Conference at the end of May. If I’ve piqued your interest though, you can always read the “overview recap” at www.umc.org.