Final reflections on General Conference

Some thoughts on General Conference that I never got around to writing about…

The diversity was amazing.  We had delegates from six continents (Antarctica was not represented) and we had seven official languages.  Live proceedings were translated into these five languages and we all had headphones like in the U.N.  At one point Bishop Streiff decided to preside in French, even though he spoke English, just for fun I suppose.  But all of this diversity is expensive, word is we spent about $2 million in translation services.

I was frustrated with the delegate from the North Katanga Conference in the Congo because he kept coming to the microphone with questions.  But then I remembered sitting in on the Liberia Annual Conference a couple of years ago and figured that if I had had a way to get my questions answered I would be pushing that button without ceasing.  And I wasn’t even being asked to vote. Grace granted to my Congolese brother and it took me longer to get to that point than I would care to admit.

Good and bad, there are people who really understand this whole General Conference thing.  As the resident Methodist Geek, I often get questions at church about polity, like explaining commissioned versus ordained.  But General Conference was a whole different animal for me but clearly the home turf to others.  Sometimes this was bad as those with an agenda could manipulate parliamentary procedure for their own good.  But it also helped us move legislation through our committees and get to the floor what needed to get there.

The music during worship was amazing.  I especially loved the closing number, when all of the groups from that morning were on stage together.  I doubt the young African American choir from Brooklyn had ever been backed up with a banjo before, but in my own bizarre way it was a real highlight.

A former coworker said of our employer:  “There is good weird and there is bad weird.  As long as more of the weird is good than bad, it’s OK.”  There was plenty of bad weird in Portland.  But there was so much more good stuff.  Looking back the week was trying but positive and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

Photo Credit:  East Ohio Communications







  1. rogert8248 says:

    Thanks for keeping up this blog, Brian. It must have taken a lot to write at the end of some very long days (or whenever you got a chance). The fatigue comes through as you count continents. I’m pretty sure that after a few good night’s sleep you would remember that India is a part of Asia. But it would be good to establish an Annual Conference in Antarctica.
    I have appreciated your perspective. It’s balanced and human.

    • Brian Sheetz says:

      Thanks, Roger, I appreciate your thoughts. I usually blogged in the evening, after dinner. Organizing my thoughts and getting it off my chest helped me sleep, although sometimes delaying it a while. Thanks for reminding me about geography. I am not smarter than a fifth grader, but I did make the correction.

  2. Kristi Kinnison says:

    Brian, Thank you for taking me to General Conference through your blogs. And especially thank you for keeping human by sharing your very personal journey toward understanding and experience. The whole world of United Methodists is blessed with your earnest work.

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