Marilyn Mohnike, Kim Hidalgo, Paul McConnell and I are back from Redlands where we attended the California-Pacific Annual Conference sessions at the University of Redlands. It was hotter than blazes out there! But it was good to visit with old friends, worship together and celebrate our common ministry.
But Conference used to be more fun. I’ve been going to Conference for 30 years, and I can remember looking forward to it each year. But over the last 20 or so years, Conference has become more and more contentious. The division between liberal (progressive) and conservative (traditional) has grown deeper over the years, as the agenda for social action has been pushed harder and harder. In recent years there has been an attempt to be less contentious in our debate, but the underlying struggle between two mutually exclusive world views has remained. What results is a lot of stress and fear.
I mentioned the “agenda for social action.” I should be more specific. Over the past couple of decades, the majority of delegates at Annual Conference have shifted more to the left, socially and theologically. And the major hot-button issue has been homosexuality. But underlying the debate about homosexuality is a theological issue related to the Bible. There are those who wish to ignore portions of the Bible that condemn homosexuality, or if not ignore it, interpret it away. On the other side, there are those who want to raise homosexuality to the position of “#1 Sin.” Both are wrong. Both are extremes. But what happens at Conference is that these two positions, and variations on them, debate resolutions and statements which are then voted on, and the majority rules. Feelings are hurt, and people avoid each other because of it.
That is why Conference is no fun anymore!
In the words of Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?!” I long for the day when controversial issues no longer force a wedge between Christian brothers and sisters, and we can all move forward in the ministry of the Kingdom, hand-in-hand, with the Lord as our guide! Maybe then, Conference will be fun again.