In the last 12 hours I’ve been asking folk how they feel about the general conference and the denomination and almost all comments are positive… something like, “I’m more encouraged about The Wesleyan Church than I’ve been for years” or “I’m really encouraged about our future after this conference.” This is not just from boomers, but from a generous number of 20 and 30something younger folk observing the conferenceWhy is this? What about this General Conference has “encouraged” so many? It may be too early but let me take a shot at it a hour after adjourning, the I’ll revisit this tomorrow…
1. “The people” prevailed. Since 1968 when this denomination was born there has been a 40-year gravitation of power and control away from “the people” and at this general conference that trend hit a brick wall. Some feel they “took back some power” even though the trend will probably kick back in before they get home today ;-)
2. Diversity. More diversity in gender & race—still not enough but the delegates and GBA are far more diverse than ever.
3. Debate. Finding a compromise on membership-alcohol etc. The debate was thoughtful, principled and once the conference fashioned a solution the final vote was strong. The spirit in the debate was a great example of people trying together to work out differences in holiness.
4. Social issues statements. At this conference Wesleyans put their foot down (with votes as high as 99%) to say we will determine our own stances on social issues like Immigration based on the Bible and not political parties and talk show hosts. Shawn Hannity has less authority for Wesleyans on Immigration than the Bible.
5. The GS Vote. While there were some “poor” percentages on the incumbents “the people” actually felt they got to “have a say” in these votes. 6. Holiness. If you cared about holiness this conference mentioned it constantly and if you don’t like the way we used to talk about holiness it re-minted the old coinage to include personal holiness along with social holiness… and even personal holiness was seen more broadly than some are used to.
7. Turning outward positively. The conference did not affirm isolation but involvement—turning outward to the world in compassion and love.
8. Vision. Repeatedly people mentioned Joanne Lyon’s “Vision and direction.” He acceptance speech was considered a fresh “casting of vision” by many.
9. Integrating our conservative past. Joanne Lyon refuses to reject our conservative past but builds on it, even utilizing its music in forging a vision for the future in the denomination… this seemed to encourage both conservatives and progressives.
10. The worship leader and support was not distracting—usually at these denominational gatherings people get all worked up about the worship. Jack lynn simply took all this out of the equation and “got out of the way” and let the people worship. He did not whip the audience into a frenzy nor did he say many words at all, but acted like a side-stage “prompter” and the people worshipped.
11. Joanne Lyon. As reflected above perhaps the number one factor mentioned was a person--Joanne Lyon. While the follow up explanation varied, the election of Lyon as “the people’s candidate” was so frequently mentioned that this is certainly the primary headliner factor in this “encouragement”…. Boy are folk expecting huge change from her! Oh, well, she is expecting to change things too .... this'll be fun to watch!