Learning about Holy Conferencing

I have become a bit of a bombthrower.

It wasn’t in my personality but I’ve become quite good at it.  If something seems injust or just crappy, I’ll call you or it out.  My experience with the United Methodist Church the last few years has led me to throw quite a few angry barbs at fellow methodists; especially pastors at comfortable churches and conference leaders.

In this very blog, I have called out Kent Millard, the pastor at the largest Methodist church in Indiana for having absolutely no prophetic voice.  I also lashed out against the bishop for moving their offices to a lame corporate bussiness park in Indiana’s richest zipcode.

Just not sure if throwing bombs or barbs is effective.  Even though our tiny church has overcome huge obstacles to becoming one of the most exciting UMCs around, I doubt the bishop will ever spend serious time with us.  I doubt Kent Millard will speak prophetically–he has too many powerful people in his congregration.

So, I am trying to learn how to do the whole holy conferencing thing.  Never been good at it.

Once I learned that it was imperative to speak truth to power, I always thought of “holy conferecing” as a weapon of the powerful.  The process becomes more important than the message.  And Jesus didn’t spend much time holy conferencing with the powerful.

I am having a lunch meeting soon with a pastor at a nearby church.  We are litterally blocks away from this other Methodist Church.  They are starting a sunday evening service; nearly a year after we started ours.  We don’t do Sunday mornings.  I found out about it through a newspaper article.

Last year I would have screamed.  And I did.  I still don’t get why two United Methodist churches so close together couldn’t figure out real ways to work together.  But, maybe this lunch meeting will be a start.

Instead of getting mad, I hope this an opportunity to think and act strategically as United Methodists and not two church leaders fighting over turf.

This is how the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church outlines the discipline of holy conferencing:

  • Every person is a child of God. Always speak respectfully. One can disagree without being disagreeable.
  • As you patiently listen and observe the behavior of others, be open to the possibility that God can change the views of any or all parties in the discussion.
  • Listen patiently before formulating responses.
  • Strive to understand the experience out of which others have arrived at their views.
  • Be careful in how you express personal offense at differing opinions. Otherwise dialogue may be inhibited.
  • Accurately reflect the views of others when speaking. This is especially important when you disagree with that position.
  • Avoid making generalizations about individuals and groups. Make your point with specific evidence and examples.
  • Make use of facilitators and mediators.Remember that people are defined, ultimately, by their relationship with God – not by the flaws we discover, or think we discover, in their views and actions.
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