A Call To Prayer…

…When I arrived at the dome, I got there just in time for the fireworks…so to speak.  The end of the secretariat’s report on church membership was wrapping up and the nominating committee was about to present its first recommendation to the delegates.  When the final comments from the floor were made and the vote to end discussion was approved, the chair and secretary of the nominating committee presented the name of Dr. Ted Wilson for the position of President of the General Conference.  There were thunderous applauds.  His name was promptly moved by the secretary of the nominating committee for acceptance, it was seconded from the floor…and then the fireworks began.  Something unexpected took place.  A delegate requested that the name be referred back to the nominating committee.  This was unprecedented.  It was commented that this had never happened to a General Conference nominee for president before.  How accurate that is, I cannot say, but because of its rarity, the chair of the session was somewhat flustered in knowing how to handle such a motion.  His immediate reaction was to have the entire delegation vote on the motion to refer the name back to the nominating committee.  However, it was pointed out to the chair that according to the rules of order, voted for the General Conference session, that was not how such motions should be handled.  The chair was bound by the rules the session had invoked on the previous day, so the objection was heard privately by the chair and secretary of the nominating committee to determine its credibility.  After some deliberation, the chair and secretary returned to inform the delegation that the objections raised had already been heard and responded to by the nominating committee and were not of a level to change the nomination.  They presented the name of Elder Wilson a second time, but another delegate came to the mic with another motion to refer the name back to the nominating committee.  More discussion from the chair in opposition that finally led to another conference between the objector and the nominating committee chair and secretary with the same result as the first objection.  And then a third attempt with the same result…Do you see a pattern here…

There was one moment of civility in the midst of the polity and rancor.  It came when one of the delegates at the mic commented on his experience in previous meetings that had contentious situations like this.  His comment was, when impasses like this occurred we would pause in our meeting and call for prayer.  “Perhaps this is a time for us to pray,” he said.  A break in the tension.  A much needed spiritual break that reminded me of the only leader in recent memory who has instituted such a process as a regular part of the meetings he chairs.  If you have ever attended a meeting chaired by Elder Dan Jackson, then you know one of the first things he does is designate an intercessor who is authorized to interrupt the meeting at any time and whenever impressed, to call the assembly to prayer.  It is something I had never witnessed by any chair before Elder Jackson, and have seen many adopted since.  In many ways it has changed the way business has been conducted in the North American Division.  It seemed as if this delegate’s suggestion was appealing to the kind of spiritual solution that has been modeled by Elder Jackson.  But then for whatever reason, the delegate did not call us to prayer, instead he called question on the previous motion.  The chair seized the opportunity to cease discussion on all previous questions and call for a vote on the original motion, the nomination of Dr. Ted Wilson for President.  “All in favor please indicate by raising your voting cards.”  “All opposed by the same sign.”  The vote was overwhelming for the election of Elder Ted Wilson for President of the General Conference.  And so Elder Wilson was re-elected in a tense and somewhat turbulent atmosphere.  Not what anyone expected and a bit uncharacteristic for a General Conference Session.  But why are we so surprised.  How spiritual are General Conference Sessions?  Is that even an expectation?

As I think about other major denominations and their church elections, those that I have watched on the WORD Network or TBN, all of them seem to be very intentional about making them highly spiritual experiences.  Most of their time, energy and planning seems to be spent in organizing the most spiritual worship experiences, with the best music and preaching.  They seem to spare no expense in inviting special guest artist, preachers and presenters to minister to their delegates in achieving the spiritual goals they are hoping to accomplish.  The worship services are spirit-filled and power-packed.  The people seem to come expecting a powerful spiritual experience and leave fulfilled and satisfied.

But can we say that about our experience at General Conference.  How memorable are the spiritual experiences here?  What spiritual highlight have we come to this General Conference in anticipation of?  Most of our time has been focused on issues that we have come to battles over, already entrenched in our positions.  Our factions are already lined up and our alleys are already in place.  Our session is more like a political convention than a spiritual one.  We are more versed in procedure and policy than vision and purpose.  How serious are we as a church about seeking God’s will for us?  Really, how serious?  Serious enough to change our plans for His plan.

If Jesus came to our General Conference session without fanfare, as an ordinary person.  If he came without a delegates badge, no name, status, social standing or recognition, would we receive Him?  What if He told us all of our plans did not fit with His plans for the church.  Would we abandon them to follow His plan or would we abandon Him.  The next time someone calls us to prayer, will we pray, or will we call for a vote…

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