Last weekend I attended the Aldersgate Covenant meeting at the Church of the Resurrection. At this gathering, I think I finally learned what holy conferencing should be. We immersed ourselves in prayer, worship, and conversation. We prayed for unity, repented of partisanship, and confessed before God that we ourselves–and not just our neighbors–are sinners. It was holy conferencing because, when we ask in prayer with humble hearts for God to show up, God shows up. It is the presence and activity of God that makes conferencing holy–and nothing else.
This gathering really threw into sharp relief how crass our political machinations have become. We adopt the poisonous assumptions and methods of secular politics, inject them into the veins of the church, and somehow expect that the outcome will be a good one. This is nothing new. It has always gone on in the long history of the Church. Yet God continues to work in spite of us.
It made me wonder: what if we began our General Conference with two days of prayer? No meetings, no protests, no rallies–just prayer. What if each day of the conference we worshipped together for an hour, but in a service of prayer, repentance, and supplication, invoking the Holy Spirit to guide our conversations and decisions? Wouldn’t this in itself be a demonstration of faith that we are placing our church in the hands of God, and not relying on our own clever maneuverings to shape our future?
In truth, only God knows what the future of the UMC will be. Our best hope moving forward it to humble ourselves, seek God’s will in the midst of chaos, and align ourselves with God’s purposes. This is going to require considerable focused, fervent prayer. We are going to have to repent of many things. God has not abandoned our church, but the question is, are we abandoning God?