Over 70 gathered from all over the state on Monday, July 1, 2019, at Laurel Hill UMC in Richmond, VA. A huge thank you goes to Yunho Eo, Pastor for hosting our impromptu gathering sponsored by the Renewal Coalition in Virginia: the WCA of VA and the Evangelical Fellowship of VA.
After greetings, H. O. Tom Thomas gave an encouraging address about the reality of the results of the VAUMC Annual Conference, held in Roanoke on June 20th – 22nd. Tom made clear that the election of an all-progressive slate was not a seismic shift. One clergy who reported to Tom said, “At Bishop Pennell’s ‘Day of Listening’ in 1999, the panel consisted of a handful of advocates of homosexual practice to only one conservative traditionalist. Conference officeholders have been consistently non-evangelical persons…" Tom gave a word of hope when he said, "The conservative/progressive makeup of GC2020 will be much the same as GC2019." This is because laity elected mainly conservatives while clergy elected mostly progressives across the US connection. That and the fact that Africa is gaining 20 delegates, the Philippines 2 and the US will be down 22 delegates. So, not the seismic shift the progressive's inflated reporting tries to indicate.
My takeaway is that the progressives, led by political professionals, certainly took things up a notch in both vigor and vitriol. Despite their politically inspired framing of, “winner takes all,” the clergy only gained two additional progressive delegates. At the same time, they successfully elected the most homogeneous delegation in years, a sign of regress versus progress from the so-called progressives. Many progressive nominees went to great lengths to “scrub” their social media sights, visible even to the untrained eye. My guess is, it is an attempt for their position not to be so easily identified by the voting body, and for other political reasons.
Several persons shared from their heart their experience of Annual Conference. One teenager, who was a reserve youth delegate said, “Last year at Annual Conference you could feel the love, but this year…there was no love." The youth response was followed by a Young-Adult delegate who expressed her surprise at how underrepresented she was. The progressive young adults who spoke from the floor at Annual Conference did NOT represent her, nor do they speak for her. That was the general sentiment across the room: we all felt unrepresented and marginalized from those who declare they care about the disenfranchised while creating their own form of injustice.
A layperson showed a chart of the United States. The predominately-red states indicated 75% of the US delegates were progressives. That lent itself to a clear need for as many of the African alternates to be present and accounted for at General Conference 2020, as possible. A challenge was lifted to help support that effort through sending funds, an approximate amount of $4,000 per alternate (which includes their visa), earmarked "Central Conference Alternates" to the WCA to be used solely for that purpose.
The Holy Spirit's presence was palpable and a powerful time of worship followed the lament. Our hearts were, in fact, strangely warmed! God showed up lifting the pall and inviting us into the throne room in prayer. The altar rail was full of prayer warriors; pews became altars, and others lay prostrate on the floor while we all cried out that what we leave behind for the next generations needs to be a faithful orthodox expression of Wesleyan Methodism. We closed this time with a resounding rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” and we all left there lighter than when we came.