Why I Will Be Voting The List
Editor’s Note: A critical next step in the work of Virginia Methodists for a New Thing is to elect Virginia Conference delegates who share our vision of a more inclusive church and can help bring it to life at General Conference 2020. Over the last two months a core team has been working to carefully review all of the nominees to identify those who are committed to this mission and ready to work for its fulfillment. On June 1, the team released the list of recommended clergy and lay nominees, and encouraged eligible clergy and laity to vote for these nominees in the order listed. (If you have not yet received the list, please email us for a copy.) David Hindman shares why he is supporting the list.
I have been eligible to vote for delegates to General Conference for nearly 40 years. I have never voted for a list of candidates. At this Annual Conference, I will.
In the past, I trusted and believed that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the overall process to help us arrive at a delegation that would be sufficiently representative of God’s desires for us in the midst of our diversity as a faith community. My primary disquietude and concern in the past was that such lists may not have been adequately rooted in holy conferencing or a desire to seek the will of Christ, as much as they were driven by less than perfect political goals, standing in the Conference’s leadership, ideology, or personal popularity.
After nearly 40 years, why would I change my mind and my path of action this year?
First, I utterly trust the three people who have presented this list to us. I have known Angie, Denise, and Tammy for many years; they are all persons of impeccable character and integrity; their faith, love for Christ and the church, and spiritual maturity put mine to shame; and I know they have assumed this responsibility with utmost dedication, openness to the Spirit, and desire to help us as a church move in a direction that honors Christ.
Second, I trust and believe them when they describe the process they used to prepare the list. These folks’ lives are saturated with prayer and the desire to seek God’s will. I am absolutely convinced that they have sought the mind of Christ; they have been transparent with us in sharing how they identified potential candidates - including that they didn’t always get their first choices but continued to listen to the Spirit at work in them and in those who declined their invitations. Added to that, the fact that none of them is on the list enhances my conviction that they have done this without any desire to promote themselves. I deeply believe they have exemplified servant leadership for us.
Third, their list doesn’t match the one I would have presented or initially preferred. To be honest, when I saw the list of nominees, there were at least three people I promised to support; but since they are not on the list I will not be supporting them after all. Personally I thought they were great candidates, and would have made good contributions. And there are people on the list I would not have initially supported. That being said, I will support the 11 persons proposed because this is not about my preferences, and who I alone think are the best candidates. I am happy to submit to the larger, deeper wisdom that I trust was much more profoundly rooted in holy attentiveness, listening, and discernment than my initial preferences were.
Fourth, I believe in holy conferencing as a way for God’s Spirit to work in, among, and through us. I completely trust that this group of folks has rooted and grounded their process of discernment in a commitment to such conferencing, and I am convinced that the wisdom of this group of folks is broader than my individual desires. I respect and trust their counsel.
Fifth, as a member of the Virginia Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, I have been deeply impacted by BoOM’s commitment to seek the mind of Christ as expressed through its vow to live within consensus as the best practice for making decisions. It is hard work, time-consuming, and difficult. It is not rooted in Roberts Rules of Order, or majority rule, but in deep trust, transparent honesty, and a willingness to surrender ego, confident that the Spirit truly is at work among us even more than within us individually. There have been times we have arrived at decisions I did not necessarily whole-heartedly endorse, but I could stand within consensus (and on at least one occasion I could not initially stand within consensus, so we worked hard to perfect a consensus position in which I finally could stand – it was a holy, powerful and beautiful experience of how the Spirit can work).
With that as background, I will vote for this list of candidates because I can stand within consensus with those who have discerned the list for us.
Finally, I am persuaded that these candidates are electable. They are known across our Conference; they are widely respected; they have a strong chance of being chosen, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that by choosing to go my own way when votes are taken.
Some of you may be aware of the story of the person on the house following a flood; each time a potential rescuer comes by, the roof dweller declines their help with the reply, “The Lord is going to save me.” Later, when the person drowns and appears before God, the deceased roof dweller complains, “You were supposed to save me; why didn’t you?” and God replies, “I sent a boat and a helicopter to save you; why didn’t you take my help!?”
Call me crazy, but as we dwell on the roof of our United Methodist home, I believe that in this thoughtful and prayerful strategy this year, God is sending us a way to move in faith away from death toward life.
This year I trust and believe the Holy Spirit is at work in those who have presented us with a list of candidates. Those candidates are worthy of the broad support of all of us, especially those of us still reeling from the decisions of the 2019 General Conference, and are committed to a church with gracious space for all, or reluctantly are willing to move forward in new directions of radical hospitality and inclusivity if that becomes necessary.
This year, I am voting the list, and invite others to do the same.
David Hindman is a WOMP (Worn-Out Methodist Preacher) living in glorious retirement in Williamsburg, VA. While he gladly served local churches, the majority of his active ministry was in higher education settings, as United Methodist campus minister at the Wesley Foundation at The College of William and Mary, and as Lead Pastor at Duncan Memorial UMC on the campus of his alma mater, Randolph-Macon College. He still enjoys opportunities to serve Christ and the church, but relishes the fact that he longer has to attend silly meetings.