I just arrived in St. Louis for the historic General Conference 2019. I’m not one of the voting delegates, I’m volunteering as a marshal. That’s become quite the joke amongst my church members…they think I’m the General Conference Bouncer.
Anyway, I just got my credentials…an all access badge. I checked out the Marshal room….interestingly enough it’s the locker room that used to belong to the St. Louis Rams, my childhood heroes. I don’t have any responsibilities until 6pm, just to jump in and help where I can until then. It’s pretty quiet right now. So I just took a quick look around the locker room and thought of all those heroes.
I walked through the tunnels that lead to the field (plenary floor for our conference). I had this really eerie feeling walking the floor. The dome looks so familiar to me, yet, at the same time so different. Several years have passed since the Rams left, and they stunk pretty bad those last few years.
But I remember…I remember the Greatest Show on Turf! I remember sitting in these seats watching my heroes tear up the opposition all the way to the Superbowl! Warner! Faulk! Holt! Pace! BRRRRRUUUUUCCCCCEEEEE! The playoff game against Minnesota en route to the Superbowl was the loudest I’ve ever heard any building. The ground shook as we cheered for our boys. My dad and I couldn’t hear each other speak during the car ride home.
But now, the Dome is quiet. All the excitement is gone. It’s kind of creepy if I’m being honest.
Slowly, delegates and volunteers representing United Methodists all around the world are trickling into this shell of a building. We’re gathering because our denomination is at a crossroads moment. We can no longer continue with “business as usual” when it comes to how we are to be in ministry with LGBTQ persons. There’s too much at stake.
We’re gathering, not for a fight, but because we love our Church. We love our Church despite years of institutional gridlock over sexuality. We love our church because we remember! We remember what we were taught about Wesley and Asbury and Coke and Cartwright and their tenacity when it came to sharing the Gospel. We remember the pastor or layperson who first shared with us the grace of our God. We remember the first time the fire of holiness crept into our hearts. We remember all that is good about this Church and can be again!
The world thinks we’re gathering here for a fight…but I’m praying for so much more. Yes there will be vociferous debate. Yes, there will be parliamentary posturing…but I’m praying that as we gather in a building that brought me so much excitement as a child that the Holy Spirit will show up, way more powerfully than the Rams ever did, and that we’ll leave this place not disgruntled and anxious, but excited for the future of the people called Methodist!