Saturday, April 26, 2008

General Pandemonium I Mean Conference

Entries from the past few days...
Hey ladies 'n gents! Good News is down here in Ft. Worth - with a lot of other people - for the United Methodist General Conference. So far we've seen propaganda fliers, a large star made of cowboy hats, a lot of international delegates, and the presidential suite JFK stayed in the night before he was assassinated. Tonight is the "opening ceremony" - no Olympic torch included - and tomorrow the hoopla begins for real. Delegates are sitting around highlighting portions of the gazillion petitions and proposals, getting registered, and trying to navigate the housing mess.A few hundred miles away kids from that weird sect are being placed in temporary custody. No protesters yet.

8 Bazillion international delegates came to an Africa Lunch held today, as well as the crack of dawn 7 a.m. Good News briefing breakfast. It's extremely cool to a) be in the minority somewhere, and b) see amazing national dress of the Central Conference delegates.

On the quaint streets of downtown Ft. Worth, bustling people with large nametags hanging around their necks scurry in huddles, floating words like "clergy" and "petition" and, in some cases of international delegates, "ah, no...only leetle English," so then I smile and bob my head.

But there are two people from the masses that I'd like to sketch for you - Trista and Mwenze.

Trista will be blurbing at today's luncheon on sexuality. I only knew that she was one of the women who'd be in and out rooming with me. She has an Australian accent. But she's from Ohio. Trista has MS, and the accent that comes and goes is a symptom that accompanies her clenched muscles. She also has been in and out of same sex relationships. A very bright, intense person with a shock of short red hair and a confident demeanor, she is working on a PhD in counseling at Regent University. She will tell you that she isn't healed. She still struggles with same sex attraction. But she believes, she knows, she says, that her orthodoxy - her God - expresses a plan for creation that doesn't include same sex relationships.

Mwenze's skin is the color of deep, rich chocolate syrup. I met him when complimentary cell phones were being distributed to Central Conference delegates - Central Conferences include most the world United Methodists outside the U.S. He asked, in limited English, how much time he had to talk on it, and how long it needed to be charged. I bustled to find the answers to these questions and attempted to communicate the information.

And then I found out he was congressman. A congressman from the Democratic Republic of Congo. And he wanted to know my name. I told him I was honored to meet him. He seemed surprised. Later he saw me again, repeated my name, and handed me a business card. His name is Mwenze.

Mwenze and Trista are both traveling some arduous journeys, in different ways. One's accent denotes a ravaging disease, one's accent marks his sincere efforts to communicate hospitality by learning a new language.

Yesterday, I was profoundly blessed by both. I hope someday you get a chance to meet them.

Two examples of why church politics matter: (I know, I know, some of you want to worship God without politics - and yet, the church exists on earth as an imperfect body susceptible to flaws and weaknesses just like anything else).

Becqui Blanco. She's a cool 20-something who teaches second graders. She and a friend noticed a gaping hole in curriculum: discipleship materials for young women - junior highers, teenagers, college freshmen. So they started Bible studies, and this led to some small conferences popping up across southern Texas. Young girls hearing about how to be a woman, with topics like eating disorders addressed in a way that acknowledges a woman as a whole being - something vital to young girls still forming their identities.

But then the Women's Division found out. They accused Becqui of being a puppet of renewal groups. "As if we couldn't have thought of this ourselves," she noted wryly. Because "Women of Valor, Rise Up" is not distributed top down, but rather sprung up from the grassroots level to meet a need. The Women's Division wanted them to use "approved" curriculum - as if they're a polygamous sect instead of women encouraging young girls to develop identities wrapped around Christ. "These girls don't care about mercury poisoning. That's the kind of thing their curriculum covers," Becqui lamented.

And then there's the cell phones. Who at General Conference arrives for two weeks without a cell phone? Many international delegates, that's who. Either they come from countries where cell phone usage isn't prevalent among the general population, or they arrive exhausted after three days of travel with little energy to track down a prepaid phone.

So a bunch of groups got together to provide cell phones, so that people like Mwenze could keep in contact with other delegates, with friends in the U.S., and with family, while he's here for two weeks.

And then this story was published:{18E4

And then this one:

So now it's racist to make sure the international delegates have cell phones just like everybody else? And what, African or Asian delegates can have their votes bought with a measly phone? Yeah, cause it's not racist to suggest that.

American delegates wouldn't dream of going to a conference for two weeks without their cell phones.

Something about blatant inconsistency annoys me.

Maybe I'll just put these chronic complainers' staplers in Jell-O. Or throw their cell phones in the ceiling.

Rockin' Robin.

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