My heart is both heavy and hopeful tonight. Like everyone else in the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences who was either present or who watched today’s proceedings when Bishop McAlilly presided, I was stunned by the allegation that our bishop would instruct persons how to vote and furious that his integrity was questioned. (As I write this, I’m still asking God to create in me a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within me.) Those of us who have the privilege of serving in the Nashville Area know that Bishop McAlilly is a man of deep integrity. His character is unimpeachable.
This General Conference continues to remind me of what a mixture of saint and sinner we all are—individually and collectively. When I pause and consider that out of all of the ways God could choose to be made known in this world, God chooses to work through us as imperfect and flawed as we are, I marvel and give thanks. Even though we have not yet been perfected in love, God works through us.
When I step back, I am able to acknowledge that emotions were high today, and I am able to say that I do not think the intent on anyone’s part was to harm. The less we know one another, the quicker we are to jump to conclusions that may be erroneous. One of the significant challenges that faces us as a global church is to carve out space where we can assume the best in one another without fully knowing one another.
I know that there are those who think that passing the Council of Bishop’s recommendation is simply deferring a decision and is an abdication of the responsibility to act on the part of those of us who are in Portland for this General Conference. And yet many of us voted for these bishops when they were candidates for the episcopacy because we believed that they were anointed by God and equipped to lead us. This week we asked them to lead, and they took our request to heart.
Since the vote to accept their proposal prevailed, I pray that we will spend less energy bemoaning the result of this vote and criticizing the decision of the body than we will praying that the Holy Spirit will help us find a way forward as we turn to God to guide our next steps. I pray that through the leadership of our episcopacy and the creation of this Commission we are providing space for the in-breaking of the Holy Spirit who chooses to work in and through us, as imperfect and as flawed as we are.