To All Who Serve in the Spirit of Diakonia,
Grace and peace to you from General Conference in Portland. I am honored to be serving as a deacon delegate from the Tennessee Conference, and I am grateful for you and your prayerful support. There have been many moments of grace here, but there have also been moments of brokenness and grief. The leadership of the General Conference is working hard to encourage and preserve unity among us, and I am grateful for that.
There was a lot of legislation presented before the committees, but not all of it was brought to fulfillment. We are now back in plenary for the second week, where we will address legislation, elections, and other matters of the whole church. The highlight for me thus far has been the love shown in relationship with one another in the TN Conference delegation. However, we have so far to go to express our unity as a global church. I don’t see much fruit in the efforts of parliamentary procedure, but the highly contested Rule 44 (which was to allow more conversation in small groups) was voted down as we considered the rules together at the beginning of General Conference. I’m convinced we need to find another way for holy conferencing to take place. This is a paraphrase of what was mentioned to us earlier today: How can we know the needs of the poor if we don’t get to know them first? This statement has much to say to us as we consider the way we minister with people of all perspectives. We must spend time together to understand one another.
One bit of wonderful affirmation was the commissioning of deaconesses and home missioners this morning. We celebrate with them and the UMW for their wonderful work, and we continue to affirm the work of those of you in these ministries within the Tennessee Conference.
Our delegation asks for your fervent prayers as we continue this week. Don’t put your trust completely in the hands of the media as conference continues. Seek information for yourself by watching the live stream of this at umc.org, staying in contact with us, watching social media feeds, and considering all of this together in prayer. The truth of group discernment is most often not in headlines, but in the discussion and consideration of all involved. After all, look at the way the Gospels were written. Each has something different to say to us, but all reveal something of the nature of God, the love of Jesus Christ, and the movement of the Holy Spirit.
May God’s peace be with you all in your continued work.
Rev. Jackson Henry