Our very own Hope Hutchison is at General Conference this week for a United Methodist Polity class. Her class is blogging about their experience at the conference. Here is her first blog entry which was originally posted at https://mtsogc2016.wordpress.com/page/2/
Hi my name is Hope Hutchison, and I am in my third year of seminary, working on my M.Div/MTS dual degree, on my way to (hopefully) becoming an ordained deacon in the UMC. I may never have attended General Conference before, but as the daughter of a pastor who has gone to General Conference many times, I have grown up hearing all about it. But, as I sat down to talk about our upcoming travels with several of my fellow classmates, I could not help but notice an apprehensiveness, and a nervousness that I was starting to have about this General Conference. Not because I am scared of being overwhelmed, I know I will be, and I’m okay with that. I was having trouble putting these feelings into words, until we started to talk about fire as a metaphor for crisis. You see, I’m from Southern California, aka fire country. And to tell me that there is no crisis until I see a log on fire is just a bald-faced lie. Just the threat of a fire is a crisis. Not to mention the fires that burn out of sight, underground, or in the underbrush for months before they come to the surface.
This is what was making me nervous and apprehensive about General Conference. It is not that it is fire country. I know that it is. The question is not, will there be a fire? There are already fires, they are just burning out of site. The question is, which fires will come to the surface this year? What will they change? What will they leave the same? Who will they harm? Who will they help? And most importantly, will they be the flames of the Holy Spirit, sent to help us go on towards perfection, or the flames of a destructive force luring us towards evil? These questions worry me, but they also give me hope. Fire can hurt and destroy, but it can also be the refining power of the Holy Spirit, and at least for now, I am choosing to live in hope (no pun intended).
The particular fire that I will be watching most closely at this year’s General Conference is the legislation put forward by Fossil Free UMC asking the church as whole, and in particular the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to divest their money from fossil fuels. As an active member and leader of the Wesleyan Order of Saint Francis, a dispersed monastic order working in the creation care movement, this is an issue that I care deeply about. The legislation is spread between three legislative sessions: General Board of Church and Society, General Administration, and Financial Administration. I will be sitting in the Financial Administration legislative session, listening to the arguments that attract the most passionate flames: the ones involving money. Through all of the fire and flame, I will be listening to see how our money can be a method for living out our theological beliefs