Resolutions that came before the Annual Conference: There were only 4 this year, this is the lowest number in my history of being at Holston AC.
• Members rejected a resolution to study and talk about homosexuality through United Methodist materials developed for that purpose. The vote was close: 339 to 314, and several of 11 speakers from the floor made emotional speeches for or against the decisions. At the end of the debate, Bishop Swanson reminded members to love each other. “Our votes have nothing to do with how we feel about each other,” he said.
Beverly Bastian, Oak Ridge District at large member, speaking against the resolution: “This is a tired, worn-out issue. I can’t understand what part of ‘no’ any of us have difficulty in understanding.”
I appreciate what Beverly had to say and I want to add something that I read immediately following this vote. This is taken from “The Secret Message of Jesus” by Brian McLaren.
Ch: 18, The Borders of the Kingdom: “the thrust of Jesus message is about inclusion-shocking, scandalous inclusion: the Kingdom of God is available to all, beginning with the least. Yet Jesus often warns people of the possibility of missing the kingdom”.
“This concern is especially relevant these days when the Christian religion is too often perceived as a divisive, judgemental, rancorous, and exclusionary movement. How can some people interpret Jesus message as exclusive, while others see it as the most radically inclusive message in human history”?
“Can any meaningful kingdom, including the kingdon of God, exist with no boundaries, no outside”?
“Does the kingdom of God say, you are forced to be in whether you want to be or not”? “There is no escape”. “That doesn’t sound like freedom”.
Then Brian creates a parable to illustrate his point:
“Once there was a sheep farmer. he had a high fence around his property to protect his sheep from wolves. But then one handsome young buck said, why are we so exclusive around here? Everyone knows that sheep are peaceful creatures, but to have this wall up around us makes it seem like we are fearful, exclusive, elitists. So they rammed the fence posts with their heads until the fence posts toppled and a breach was open in the fence.
Soon a band of wolves passed by. Their leader said, we would be idiots to rush in and start eating sheep in broad daylight. The sheep would panic, and the fence would be rebuilt. let’s move in among them and pretend to be their friends, and we can eat well for years to come. He approached the leader of the sheep and said, we see your goodwill gesture, and we would like to live among you in peace. the sheep were pleased. Their peace strategy had worked! Day after day, wolves and sheep would lie down in the sun, enjoying the green pastures. The wolves would even eat a few mouthfuls of grass to reassure the sheep that they weren’t a threat at all.
But each night the wolves would find a sheep that had drifted away from the herd and have a feast. The next morning when the sheep would realize one of their number was missing, the wolves would pretend to be outraged and join them in a pretend search for the perpetrators. Eventually the sheep realized they had been tricked, and they asked the farmer to rebuild the fence, and they became more dustrustful of outsiders than they had been before”.
“It’s clear: the judgementalism and exclusion that are often associated with religion are a terrible problem in our world. But is’s also true that saying, Everybody’s in, everybody’s fine, everybody’s an insider doesn’t solve all the problems either, it creates new ones.
Brian goes on to say that the kingdom is available to everyone but a person has to live a life of repentance, a changed life. We have to have a change of heart, no one is allowed to go after their own agenda, it is God’s agenda that matters. A person must have a new way of thinking, feeling, living and being in the pastures of God.
One final quote:
The kingodm of God, then seeks a third way: not exclusiveness and rejection on the one hand, and not foolish, self-sabotaging inclusion on the other hand, but rather purposeful inclusion. In other words, the kingdom of God seeks to include all who want to participate in and contribute to it’s purpose, but it cannot include those who oppose it’s purpose.
And I say Amen.
•Members approved resolutions supporting local food self-suffi ciency and energy audits for parsonages, new buildings, and renovation projects. After some debate, the conference referred to the Board of Pensions a resolution that would provide treatment of the obesity through the conference health insurance plan.