No Sweeter Place

On September 26, 1967, Tara Rivetti was born. My heart leaps at the thought of her arrival and her vulnerable first breaths. Eyes opening. Hands reaching out to embrace the world. Little cries, giving voice to a desire to know and be known.

Fifty years later, I am celebrating the astonishing beauty of her personhood; the soul-shaping music that her life makes; the stunning  and multi-layered integrity of her daily walk; and her gracious willingness to love me and to be loved by me in the context of a covenant that, in so many ways, defines my life.

She is my favorite person. The comprehensive goodness of her spirit creates magnificent poetry in a world trapped within prose. A journey through her countenance is always the best part of my day, my week, my life.

There is no sweeter place than by her side and in her heart and on her mind. This is a song about that very thing, created for Tara and sung for her with deep and grateful love on the occasion of her birthday.

“No Sweeter Place”

In the courtship and
In the covenant
In the tears we’ve gently cried
In the prayers and
In the puzzlement
There’s no sweeter place than at your side

In the tensions and
In the resonance
In the shades of grace we find
In my journeys through
Your countenance
There’s no sweeter place than on your mind

No sweeter place
No sweeter place
Than at your side
And on your mind
No matter where
The road will lead me
There’s no sweeter place I’ll ever find

In the Sabbath and
In the silliness
In the pain of time apart
In the warmth and
In the chilliness
There’s no sweeter place than in your heart

In the smiles and
In the somberness
In the fear of life’s extremes
In the mirth and
In the madness
There’s no sweeter place than in your dreams

No sweeter place
No sweeter place
Than at your side
And on your mind
No matter where
The road will lead me
There’s no sweeter place I’ll ever find

In our hopes and
In our dreaming
In the memories we retrace
In this world that
God’s redeeming
There’s no sweeter place than your embrace

No sweeter place
No sweeter place
Than at your side
And on your mind
No matter where
The road will lead me
There’s no sweeter place I’ll ever find

A Back to School Prayer


God of the Ages, who cares deeply about what transpires in both the sanctuary and the classroom; at both the dinner table and the cafeteria; in both the home and the hallways of our educational institutions: We cry out to you on behalf of our students. Some of these students are very young, heading off for their first day of pre-school. Some are a bit older, making ready for elementary school or middle school or high school. Others are headed off to college, or perhaps into a new season of graduate study. Others are entering the workforce in order to begin a journey of lifelong learning.

Open the minds of the students, that they might be available to their teachers and receptive to meaningful learning. Open their hearts, that they might be compassionately attentive to the other people whose lives intersect with theirs in the journey of their education. Even now, O God, the faces of many different students are appearing in our prayerful reflection. Grant that, as the students learn about mathematics and science and literature and language, they might also learn a deeper reverence for the One in whom all knowledge is ultimately to be found.

We cry out to you on behalf of our teachers. Strengthen them in their labor.  Energize them in their task. Guard them against the kind of negativity and cynicism that can make a classroom into a cold and hurtful place. Deepen their love, not only for their subject matter, but also for the ones they teach. By the power of your Holy Spirit, equip these teachers to be the instruments of compassionate tutelage that you are calling them to be.

We cry out to you on behalf of our school administrators and staff. College presidents, deans, financial officers, planners, and registrars. Superintendents, principals, vice-principals, and guidance counselors. Nurses, school psychologists, and behavioral counselors. Administrative assistants, receptionists, custodial staff, security officers, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. These are the souls whose sacred responsibility it is to generate a safe and nurturing environment in which holistic learning might take place. Bless them with an ever-deepening awareness of their purpose, and grant to them the strength to fulfill it.

We cry out to you on behalf of families that are struggling in painful ways during this season of transition. Some parents are dealing with the anxiety of seeing their child step onto a school bus for the very first time. Some parents are finding it particularly difficult to let their children go as they head off to college in this often-frightening world. Some children and youth are burdened by a sense of insecurity as they enter into a new season of life and learning. Weave the different threads of these family circumstances into the rich and vibrant tapestry of your grace, so that the members of these families might be drawn closer to one another and closer to you.

Build a protective fortress, O God, around our schools and our institutions of higher learning. Guard them against violence, hatred, bullying, and hurtful manipulation. Make every classroom and office into a sanctuary for your presence, so that, through our system of education, many will be led to recognize that a reverence for you is the beginning of all wisdom. We pray this in the trustworthy name of Jesus Christ, whose transforming Lordship is our highest learning and whose grace is the curriculum by which we live, move, and find our being. Amen.

The Church in “Downtown Owl”


A while ago, I had the opportunity to read Chuck Klosterman’s relentlessly entertaining novel “Downtown Owl” (published in 2008). The novel focuses on life in the mid-1980’s as it unfolds in the fictional small town of Owl, North Dakota—a town where cable television is not available and where “disco is over but punk never happened.”

As the people of Owl proudly resist the narrative of popular culture, they invest their energies in those time-tested realities that seem to be woven into the DNA of the town’s lifeblood: high school football, hating the government, reckless sexual relationships, and the copious consumption of alcohol. In Owl, normalcy is impossible for outsiders to define, and even the lifelong residents have stopped trying.

Interestingly, church life is still important to a portion of Owl’s population. In fact, the local Roman Catholic church is very pleased with the arrival of its new priest, Father Steele, who is “a young, fat, affable, nebulously feminine individual who—in stark contrast to his predecessor—did not assume that all women were the intellectual equivalent of cows.”

In one of the most hilarious literary treatments of church decision-making that I have ever read, Klosterman takes the practice of Bible study (in a Roman Catholic context) and makes it the center point of a church-related controversy. The narrator in the story sets the stage in this fashion:

Traditionally, Roman Catholics are not big Bible scholars. Catholics focus on the Gospels; the rest of the Bible is what Protestants arbitrarily memorize for no obvious reason. Father Steele wanted to change this…[And so] five middle-aged women agreed to meet with Father Steele every Wednesday morning in the basement of the church rectory to debate the Word of God. That was September. By October, Vernetta Mauch hated Melba Hereford the way Nixon hated JFK. The feelings were mutual.

At the heart of this controversy is the question of what a Bible study should include. Vernetta Mauch believes that Bible study is best treated as an opportunity for individuals to relate the biblical stories to their personal experiences, and Vernetta has become quite adept at this practice. In fact, according to the narrator, “there was not a single anecdote from either Testament that Vernetta could not connect to specific dramatic events in her own personal history, or even to semi-dramatic events from the previous Friday.”

In short, Vernetta approaches Bible study as an opportunity to discuss the intersection of Scripture and her personal journey, much to the disdain of Melba Hereford.

Melba, under the influence of a vastly different hermeneutical approach, resents what she perceives to be Vernetta’s efforts to use the Bible as a springboard for self-centered revelation:

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Melba interjected when Vernetta tried to use Christ’s damning of a fig tree as a means to criticize her husband’s insistence on buying a new lawn tractor. “Buying a lawn mower has nothing to do with the Son of God. You’re ruining the Bible for everyone.”

For Melba, Bible study is not to be a time of personal revelation and application. Rather, it is to be a context for intellectual discernment in which a safe and dignified distance can be maintained between Biblical truth and the people who are pondering it (preferably in silence). So passionate is Melba about this conviction (and her dislike for Vernetta) that she encapsulates her angst into an administrative point of order: “I want to make a new rule,” Melba says during a Bible study. “From now on, no one can talk about their own life during Bible study.”

Like all good church people, they put it to a vote. The final tally was 3-2 in favor. As a result, “Owl now had the only Bible-study group in America where it was forbidden to tell any story less than two thousand years old.”

Klosterman’s deft and creative literary exploration of this fictional (but wonderfully true to life) milieu brought me to simultaneous laughter and sadness. I laughed because I heard in Vernetta and Melba the voices of hundreds of my past parishioners, all of whom had passionate convictions about everything from Bible study to worship, everything from sacramental practice to church music. The laughter, however, was accompanied by a strange sense of sadness over my remembrance of the Vernetta’s and Melba’s I’ve encountered over the years who wound up hating one another because of their drastically divergent views of what the church’s ministry should and should not accommodate.

When I ponder the relationship between Melba and Vernetta, it is impossible for me not to think about two women in my very first appointment who were locked in a seven-year feud over whether the American flag was to be located stage-right or stage-left of the altar. (Interestingly, when I suggested to them that it may be best for the American flag not to be present on either side of the altar, since Trinitarian worship bears witness to a Kingdom that transcends nationalistic identity, both women found an unanticipated unity in their shared dislike for their pastor’s “newfangled ideas!”)

I suppose that my point (and, I think, Klosterman’s) is that church can be a tricky place. It is a place where great potential exists for mystical intersections between the eternal and the commonplace. And yet, given the eccentricities, passions, and personalities of the church’s people, it can also become a fragmented and compartmentalized environment in which people are either loved or hated depending upon which compartment they choose to occupy. In such an environment, it is often difficult to avoid jumping into a murky sea of distorted priorities—a sea in which the church’s people are far more interested in the school of red herrings swimming around them than they are in the One who walks on the water and invites his followers to join him there.

And yet, after all the literary dust had settled, my reading of “Downtown Owl” left me with a feeling of gratitude for the church and its ministry. Klosterman, perhaps unintentionally, helped me to remember that the Church, at its best, is the only environment in the world in which Vernetta’s and Melba’s can be confronted by biblical truth and challenged to live into the reality of making Christ-centered peace amidst divergent convictions. The risk of such an environment, of course, is that people might wind up hating one another (if their desire to win the argument becomes more passionate than their desire for Christocentric community).

But, every once in a while, I still find Melba and Vernetta sitting beside one another in the same pew—singing together, praying together, and allowing the cross of Christ to bridge the gap between their contrasting personal preferences. In those moments, I tend to be awestruck by the church’s holy potential that is occasionally and beautifully realized.  It inspires me to pray that all of our “Melbas” and “Vernettas” will be drawn closer to one another and closer to the risen Christ.

General Conference: Day Nine


I had the privilege of leading our delegation early this morning in a time of prayer and spiritual contemplation. We focused on Jesus’ sweet and beautiful invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Resting together as a delegation this morning felt supernaturally rejuvenating. It felt like Sabbath. Little did I know how much I would need that Christocentric “rest” throughout the day.

In this morning’s worship, Bishop James Swanson, resident Bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference, preached a hard but important sermon on the reality of evil. The Bishop warned us that “if we are going to go forth in Jesus’ name, there is a shadow figure that follows us. Because, if we go forth in Jesus’ name, evil gets after us and evil is personal…Evil is let loose on us as individuals…And any Christian is a candidate for being an agent of evil.

Bishop Swanson suggested that the only way to stand against evil is to move beyond justification so that we might surrender to the journey of sanctification, allowing ourselves to be so inwardly occupied by the Spirit of Jesus that there is no room for evil to build a home: “This evil is like the old boll weevil from the South. It’s lookin’ for a home, y’all! But we know that evil is not co-equal with God. We know that greater is he who is in us than he who is in the world!

Bishop Swanson’s preaching served as a stark and prophetic reminder that evil is not simply a philosophical construct. It is a very real and devastating absence of good that results in hurtful behaviors and distorted relationships, even in the hallways of General Conference.

I don’t quite know how to describe this painfully difficult day, and I do not have the energy to provide all the details. Why was the day painful? For many reasons. Our Bishops responded faithfully and boldly to the General Conference’s request for their leadership, offering to us a recommended “way forward” that includes the formation of a Commission to examine and reevaluate the pertinent Disciplinary paragraphs related to human sexuality and a deferral of all action on the petitions related to human sexuality until either the General Conference of 2020 or a special called session of the General Conference prior to 2020. The Bishops’ recommendation very narrowly passed. The conversation around the recommendation bore witness to the theological and hermeneutical differences present on the plenary floor that can so easily lead to suspicion and mistrust in our relationships with one another. There were painful moments of accusation and miscommunication throughout the day. At times, it felt less like a sanctified church and more like a fragmented and dysfunctional family.

Making matters even more painful was the fact that, at one point in the afternoon, when some of our African delegates began to sing for the purpose of announcing their displeasure with some of the proceedings, an individual’s unconscionable racial slur was overheard by several delegates. While the articulator of the racial slur was confronted and rebuked, his language illuminated the continuing sin of racism in our midst and the brokenness in our church that Jesus Christ is still at work to redeem and heal.

There were many tears today over our agonizing divisions. Many opinions. Many words. Many heartfelt prayers and tender moments of engagement.

And there were signs of glorious hope. My friend Ann Jacob, the co-chair of the United Methodist Division on Ministries With Young People, stood at the microphone (with several young adults gathered around her) and read the beautiful “Statement of Unity” (adopted at the last United Methodist Global Young People’s Convocation), the conclusion of which includes this affirmation: “We urge everyone to seek solutions that promote our global unity as the United Methodist Church of Jesus Christ, rather than focusing only on the issues that divide us, so that we may faithfully live out our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Our young adults were the primary visionaries today, leading us all with their commitment to Jesus Christ and the unity of his holy church.

Another sign of hope was the impromptu meeting that the Western Pennsylvania delegation experienced during the morning break. For twenty-five minutes, we stood around a table and opened our hearts to one another, articulating our fears and frustrations, our hurts and hopes, our convictions and commitments. In our honest engagement with one another, it became abundantly clear to us how theologically diverse we are as a delegation. More importantly, it became abundantly clear to us how deeply we love one another. It made me think that our delegation might be poised to lead Western Pennsylvania and the entire denomination in casting a vision for a durable and Christ-centered unity that can accommodate our differences.

May it be so.

General Conference: Day Eight


In our early morning Western Pennsylvania delegation meeting today, Vicki Stahlman led us in a time of prayer and reflection. Vicki spoke to us about the servant leadership of Jesus and invited us to remember the servant leaders whose leadership has blessed us over the course of our lives. I immediately thought about my dad, who died in 2011, whose birthday is today, whose presence I dearly miss, and whose spirit of servanthood nurtured me in a thousand different ways.

Just before morning worship in plenary, we recognized and welcomed several ecumenical guests (guests from other Christian denominations) who have graciously been present with us for part of our conference. The presence of these leaders from other faith traditions is a tangible reminder to us that United Methodism is but one part of the body of Christ.

In our morning worship, Bishop Ivan Abrahams (General Secretary of the World Methodist Council) preached a multi-layered and richly prophetic sermon about the subversive and countercultural nature of God’s kingdom: “God’s kingdom stood opposed to all the other kingdoms,” Bishop Abrahams declared, “including the kingdom of Caesar. The early church dared to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and that his Lordship demands the loyalty and full subordination of all those who will allow that Lordship to hold authority over their lives.” The Bishop then challenged us to be perpetually mindful of the difference between the Jesus of Caesar/Constantine and the Jesus of Palestine: “We need to be wary of empire, because it seeks a loyalty than only belongs to Jesus of Palestine—not Jesus of Caesar or Jesus of Constantine. To follow the Jesus of Constantine is to be seduced by the political power of the day and comfortably settled in the status quo…To follow the Jesus of Palestine is to become a counterculture to the world that seeks to own us.”

I was profoundly moved by this morning’s celebration of the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, the 200-year history of which brightly illuminates God’s ability to overcome the sin of racism with a creative and redemptive grace that leads to new possibilities and new expressions of the kingdom. The African Methodist Episcopal Church is now 3,000,000 members strong with 7,000 congregations in 40 countries. As Bishop Gregory Palmer phrased it in this morning’s celebration, “We are blessed because of who you are, our sister church, and we recognize and celebrate that we are part of the Methodist family with you.”

We did important legislative work today at General Conference. Among other actions, we addressed legislation that called for a limited tenure for our bishops. (The petition received majority support from the delegates, but not the necessary two-thirds majority required for constitutional change.) We also approved legislation that makes it possible for ordained Deacons to be authorized by their bishops to preside at the celebration of the sacraments in their places of ministry during times of sacramental urgency and need.

At the heart of today’s proceedings was a brief statement by Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, related to the divisions in the church over human sexuality and Biblical authority. Bishop Ough, with a tone of quiet resolve, acknowledged the “collective broken heart” in our denomination. He further acknowledged that the situation is made even more complicated because the bishops themselves “are not united on these issues.” Bishop Ough’s statement concluded with a call for unity and a declaration that the bishops “are NOT advancing or advocating any plan for separation or reorganizing the denomination.”

For many of us, myself included, the Bishop’s statement felt like the well-intentioned offering of an over-the-counter salve to a patient with a sucking chest wound—a frustrating missed opportunity to cast new vision and breathe new life into a church that cannot currently see the way forward. I love our bishops, and I am grateful for their faithful ministry in our midst. This morning’s episcopal statement, however, left me feeling as though the Council of Bishops had backed away from a crucial opportunity to lead with creativity and boldness. (In our bishops’ defense, however, how fair is it for delegates to expect them to lead with boldness while at the same time entertaining legislation that limits their tenure? It’s tantamount to saying “Lead…but only for a little while, and only in a way that makes us cheerfully comfortable.” Such legislation reflects a lack of confidence in our bishops that is hardly conducive to the generation of visionary episcopal leadership.)

Interestingly, later in the day, a General Conference delegate, not content with Bishop Ough’s statement, rose to request more intentional and proactive leadership from our bishops, including the articulation of a clear vision for how a divided church might be able to move forward. Said the delegate, “A call for unity without a clear path toward it will never get us there.” His sentiments were affirmed by the majority of the delegates.

It was quite a significant moment, and I wish all of you could have been there: The General Conference, pleading with the church’s bishops to cast a vision that might help us to find our way through our brokenness. We shall see what comes of this in the days ahead. A plan for amicable separation? A plan for restructuring that permits both conservatives and liberal/progressives to find their place in the denomination in a way that prevents them from compromising their convictions? A special called session of the General Conference in the next couple of years to clarify and interpret the plan? Some other option? Time will tell. The only thing that’s clear at this point is that status quo is no longer sustainable.

A final word about the day, and it is a sincerely positive word: I was really proud of Bishop Thomas Bickerton, our episcopal leader in Western Pennsylvania, who presided at one of our legislative sessions this morning. The leadership that Bishop Bickerton offered today was gracious, comprehensively attentive, and wonderfully competent. General Conference delegates in a fractured church are an exceedingly tough crowd, and Bishop Bickerton led and loved us with great care. His ministry today was a highlight for which I was abundantly grateful, and Western Pennsylvania’s United Methodists would have been greatly pleased with the manner in which their Bishop presided.

General Conference: Day Four


My friend and colleague, Rev. Amy Wagner, led our delegation early this morning in a time of prayer and reflection. Amy borrowed an image from Richard Rohr—specifically, the image of “replanting grace”—to move us more deeply into a contemplation of where it is in our own individual lives that we most desperately need a fresh “replanting” of God’s life-giving grace.

Personally, I am most in need of a grace-filled replanting in my pastoral ministry and leadership. More specifically, I long for a new experience of grace that will generate within me a healthier confidence in spite of my inadequacies; a healthier joy in spite of my self-doubt; and a healthier vision in spite of my deficiencies in leadership. My prayer this morning became something like this: “Replant within me, O God, a grace that will equip and inspire me to be a faithful pastor and friend to the exceptional congregation that I am privileged to serve.”

In today’s morning worship service, Bishop Sally Dyck offered a provocative sermon that challenged all of us to “go learn mercy.” What made Bishop Dyck’s sermon particularly noteworthy was her allusion to the fact that “only one category of people do we declare to be incompatible with Christian teaching” (a reference to the United Methodist Book of Discipline’s language about the practice of homosexuality). Bishop Dyck went on to express her desire that nothing (or no one) be singled out in the Book of Discipline as being “incompatible with Christian teaching” and that we would all recognize our shared fallenness and our shared need for God’s saving grace.

For those who desire a change in the church’s current teaching related to homosexuality, Bishop Dyck’s proclamation came as a liberating word of profound hope. For those who support the denomination’s current position, however, the Bishop’s words sounded more like a stark dishonoring of a long-held denominational conviction related to the stewardship that one is to practice over his or her sexuality.

Immediately following Bishop Dyck’s sermon, I engaged in a conversation with some of my colleagues. The conversation focused on hard things: the difference between mercy and acceptance of a particular behavior; the crucial connection between compassion and accountability; the demanding relationship between the pursuit of holiness and the language of “incompatibility.” In many ways, the conversation I experienced today was a reflection of the larger struggle in which our denomination currently finds itself. Bishop Dyck’s sermon took us straight to the broken heart that beats somewhere in the middle of that struggle.

It may be that some of you who are reading this are deeply and meaningfully troubled and unnerved because you have never experienced a church gathering in which human sexuality was so specifically named and debated. Or maybe you are seeing disruptive social media sound bites in the Facebook news feed that leave you wondering why the church is focusing on these matters. If this describes you at all, please know that I am prayerfully standing alongside you in the journey; that Jesus Christ is still Lord of creation and head of the church; and that God will provide a way through that is grounded in radical patience, relentless compassion, and profound obedience. Hang in there, friends. Jesus is in the messiness of all of this, doing something creatively redemptive and good.

The highlight of the day for me was the Laity Address in which a number of beautifully-gifted lay persons reminded us afresh that, if there is going to be authentic revival in the church, it will come, not primarily through the clergy, but through the laity. It has always been that way throughout the church’s history. Particularly moving today was the testimony of 14-year-old Hannah Foust, who stood before the entire General Conference and described the manner in which her heart was drawn to the suffering of many people in the West African country of Burkina Faso, where sources of clean water are scarce. Through her individual efforts, Hannah has funded three wells in Burkina Faso, thereby providing clean water for thousands of people. Her motivation? “Jesus, the Living Water, has called me to change the world through funding wells. He brought people from the other side of the world into my heart, and he is using me to help them in their hurting.

Yep. That’s Jesus. That’s church.

I spent about six hours in my Discipleship legislative committee this afternoon. We acted on about 1/3 of the 52 petitions that have been entrusted to our care, which is an excellent start. The work that we did today as a legislative committee will lead to better and clearer training for lay persons who feel called to deepen their ministry. Beyond this, we clarified legislation that will hopefully result in life-changing ministry through the Native American Comprehensive Plan and an important initiative called “Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century.”

The evening concluded with a beautiful banquet that celebrated the ministry of the laity of the United Methodist Church. As I sat at the banquet, weary and deep in thought, it occurred to me how blessed I am to know Jesus and to experience the remarkable things that he is doing through his people.

General Conference: Day One


Opening Worship for the General Conference was vibrant, multisensory, linguistically and culturally diverse, deeply Trinitarian in spirit, and relentlessly evocative in its music and imagery.  I wish that all of you could have been there.  (I understand that many of you watched the service online.)

During Opening Worship, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., who served in Western Pennsylvania back in the 1970’s and who, in fact, was ordained elder in Western Pennsylvania in 1975, offered the ministry of preaching. Bishop Brown’s proclamation of the Word was a powerful reminder of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ in making ecclesiastical unity a possibility, even amid significantly different interpretations of Scripture and theological perspectives. Bishop Brown called to mind the important and sometimes tumultuous disagreements that the United Methodist Church has experienced in its 48-year history (since the 1968 merger that resulted in the creation of this denomination). “We hold on to our respective positions as dearly as we hold our own consciences,” Bishop Brown acknowledged in his preaching. “But may we also seek the path of unity as we have on other matters throughout our history. Jesus, we are here for you as a united church—united by your grace that saves us!”

Later on in the afternoon, we experienced a video presentation by Bishop David Yemba of the Central Congo Episcopal Area. Bishop Yemba spoke about the creative way in which many Africans in the Central Congo manage their conflicts. When conflict arises in the community, the conflicted parties agree to gather under a tree for the purpose of addressing the issues over which they are divided. The tree’s branches remind them of the many lives impacted by their conflict. The tree’s shade points to the refreshment of reconciliation. The tree’s trunk calls to mind the sturdiness of unity. According to Bishop Yemba, these conversations under the tree do not always lead to solutions. Frequently, they simply lead to a fresh recognition of the fact that peace can prevail without winners and losers and that unity can accommodate the absence of uniformity. Bishop Yemba then concluded with this powerful point: “Jesus Christ is the tree under which we gather.” We stand in the shade of his grace, unified but not uniform; manifesting peace, but not homogeneity. The tree metaphor fell upon my heart as something powerful, given all that is before us.

We devoted the rest of the afternoon and evening to special introductions, organizational matters, and the adoption of the rules of General Conference.  Conversations about General Conference rules are always challenging, especially for those who are not particularly conversant in the language of our polity and parliamentary procedure.  However, I am deeply grateful that there are leaders in our church who have both the skill and passion to help us to practice good stewardship over our rules and our processes. Those rules and processes are what help to create a healthy and appropriate context in which the General Conference can best do its work.

It is 11:15, and I am ready for sleep.  Thank you for joining me in this journey.