By Chuck Griffin
Holston WCA Chair
Oh, the anxiety. Oh, the chatter!
I say that in my Holston Wesleyan Covenant Association role, as a person who gets phone calls and e-mails from worried Methodists. I say that as pastor of a church. As February draws near, the reality of the United Methodist Church’s 2019 Special General Conference is on so many minds.
When my children were little, I taught them this phrase: “The important thing is to remain calm at all times.” As a sometimes anxious father, I did this to remind myself, more than them, of the importance of seeking calm in the midst of trouble. When anxieties set in, I could say out loud, “What’s the important thing?” They would reply, “to remain calm at all times.”
I’m asking all of you involved with the Holston WCA to be calm, thoughtful leaders in these days leading up to General Conference, and in the days immediately following General Conference.
Our biggest challenge right now is probably self-proclaimed experts declaring to anxious people exactly what’s about to happen. Usually, these people like to talk about how a split is imminent, either in the denomination or in a local congregation.
Look, no one can say for sure what the results will be from General Conference. We can make educated guesses, but when you consider the three big plans before the delegates, all the other petitions, and how these proposals could be modified, merged or stalled in myriad ways, you have to say there is no way to predict the exact outcome.
Ignore these self-appointed experts, who enjoy feeding on other people’s anxieties. Or if you must engage them, ask them a simple question: “And exactly how do you know what you claim to know?”
Even after General Conference, there will be much prayerful planning that must occur, and no one will have complete answers in the first few days following the St. Louis gathering.
It is possible we will see a United Methodist Church again firmly rooted in scriptural principles, and the difficult work of reinforcing those principles will begin. It could be the UMC will have drifted into a kind of liberalism that will require the birth of a new denomination. It could be we will all find ourselves scratching our heads, asking God, “Now what?”
We will of course look to our consecrated leader, our bishop. We will seek clearly worded guidance from her. We did, after all, formally and prayerfully install her in the role, and we must give her every chance to guide us after the General Conference has spoken, or even if the delegates leave St. Louis having said nothing at all.
Let’s also be sure to breathe—simple to do, easy to forget to do. Prayerfully exhale anxiety. Inhale so we deliberately invite God’s Spirit to work in us. The path will be made clear soon enough.
I also would suggest we meditate repeatedly on Philippians 4:4-9:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
“Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Blessings on you all.