Posted by: morgan1965 | March 19, 2019

Special UMC General Conference: Did God Speak?

Did God speak to the Special United Methodist Church General Conference, recently convened in St Louis, Missouri? If God spoke, what did God say? Whose prayers did God answer?

Perhaps many people believe that God did speak to the Special General Conference. After all, the Conference spent all of a day in prayer, prior to the start of the three-day Conference. Surely there was sufficient opportunity for God to speak during a four-day period of time. If God spoke, when did God speak and what did God say?

Consider the time when Elijah met God at Horeb. As directed by God, Elijah went out and stood on the mountain, waiting for God to pass by. First, there was a great wind, but the Lord was not in the wind. Second, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. Third, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. Then there was “a sound of sheer silence.” It was in the silence that Elijah heard the Lord’s voice (See I Kings 19:11-13).

Even when God speaks, there can be confusion in discerning that God is speaking and what it is that God is saying. In the midst of the debate during the General Conference one day, I heard what sounded like a clap of thunder. In that moment of discernment, a bishop friend who was sitting beside me recalled the passage of scripture about the time when Jesus spoke about his own death.  While Jesus was speaking, a voice came from heaven. The scripture says: The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. ‘Others said, an angel has spoken to him’ (John 12:27-36). Not everyone around me at the time heard the thunder; some folk heard it and others did not.

If God spoke to the Special General Conference, in what manner did God speak? Did God speak during the all-day prayer session? Perhaps God spoke through the report of the Commission on the Way forward. God might have addressed the Conference in one of the Plans that was presented. Also, did God speak through one or more of the multiple delegates who addressed the assembly at various times?

The bishops and the delegates all prayed to God asking God to be present in the midst of the Conference, with the hope that God would lead and guide the delegates in their decision making and voting. We prayed to God long before we arrived in St. Louis. Did God hear our prayers?

President Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief, witnessed the sound defeat of the Union troops by the Confederate army in September 1862 at Manassas Junction, Virginia. Lincoln’s mood was somber afterward. Finally, Lincoln wrote a private reflection in which he sought to discern God’s will among the numerous voices after the disastrous defeat. Lincoln wrote:

The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God’s purpose is something different from the purpose of either party—and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect his purpose. I am almost ready to say this is probably true – that God wills this contest, and wills that it shall not end yet. By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contests proceeds. 

Some folk favored the One Church Plan while some folk opted for the Traditional Plan. I wonder which plan God favors. I don’t know. I do know that the Traditional Plan prevailed by a vote of 438 to 384, and this plan reinforces the United Methodist Church’s prohibition against same-sex unions and the ordination of “self-avowed practicing” gay persons. All the concerned parties and constituents prayed to the same God. The General Conference spoke. But, did God speak? If God spoke, what did God say to the United Methodist Church?

What is God saying to the United Methodist Church? As we ponder this question, it is helpful to remember that Jesus raised Lazarus after he had been in the tomb for four days. God raised Jesus on the third day. The point to note is that we have an on-time God who operates on God’s time.

Are we listening for God’s voice?

Think About It!








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