Stop the Battle of General Conference
And Return to the Gospel Message!
By Rachel Miller,
a heterosexual, male cross-dresser
and author of the community best seller,
The Bliss of Becoming One!
The Battle of General Conference
The hype regarding General Conference 2004 contains all the elements of a
national presidential convention. The conservatives, fresh from a resounding
victory in 2000, are preparing to expand their influence substantially. The
liberals dazed by their prior defeat and still in a state of relative disarray,
are scrambling to mitigate the damage. Issues have been defined, delegates
aligned and voting rights determined in such a way that a conservative victory
seems virtually assured. Within the United Methodist Church, conservatives have
become a formidable political machine intent on adoption of their version of
The key changes will roll back previous advances for women, minorities, social
programs and gays. They will establish doctrinal standards that will severely
limit tolerance for alternative theological thought. These are not fringe or
wedge issues but fundamental changes that will dramatically shift the character
The Gospel Message
In the Gospels we read about religious leaders who repeatedly tried to trap
Jesus into saying something that would justify condemning Him. They asked Him
what the most important commandment was, and His reply encapsulated the Gospel
message. The first commandment is to love God with our whole heart, soul and
mind. The second is to love all people as we love ourselves. If we do these
things we will find that we are being faithful to the intent of the law. Jesus
didn't create a new code of conduct but reminded people of a long-standing
tradition. The Gospels are filled with stories of Jesus demonstrating that what
God wants is our hearts. He denounced the mere outward appearance of holiness.
He denounced the judging of others. He befriended those who were treated as
outcasts and sinners by self-righteous religious leaders.
The Gospels say that The Father loved us so much that He sent His Son Jesus to
die for our sins. If God judged us, we would all fail miserably because none of
us is worthy of God's love or capable of earning it. But we don't have to be
worthy or earn it because He gave it as a free, unconditional gift. He loved us
first, just as we are. Now He wants us to demonstrate that same love towards Him
and others. He said that His followers were to be known by their love for each
other. If love is to be our identifier, how many of us could be readily
identified as Christians?
What We Must Do
Perhaps the most difficult task in following Jesus is to take personal control
over our faith and belief system. This step is extraordinarily difficult because
we have been taught to rely on our church and ministers for spiritual guidance.
Their authority provides the comfort of apparent certainty that alleviates our
fear of the unknown. That process works fine in ordinary situations, but when
fundamental issues arise that spark serious disagreement and make certainty an
elusive target, we need to be able to think for ourselves. By thinking logically
and clearly about our faith, it becomes our own personal, deeply ingrained
belief system; not just something that someone in spiritual authority told us.
To find the truth in the current situation, you won't be able to simply ask your
bishop or pastor. You will also need to talk to others who will provide you with
differing points of view. You will need to uncover the real issues and
understand the underlying assumptions. Extensive dialog is essential to
understanding the truth. If someone tells you that you are wrong to question
what they say, then you are listening to a very dangerous person. People whose
ideas can't stand the light of reason are not seeking the truth.
In solidifying our faith and belief system, we need to go beyond just reading
the Gospels and allow the contents of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John to permeate
our very beings and direct our actions. The concept of Open Minds, Open
Hearts, Open Doors provides a wonderful frame of reference. The time-tested
Quadrilateral provides an outstanding tool kit. Following Jesus is a
simple concept but not an easy task. Yet, attempting to follow Him is ultimately
what makes us Christians.
Because of our presumed Godly focus, the church is supposed to be fundamentally
different from worldly focused organizations. If that is so, why do we act so
much like other organizations? We are supposed to act like Jesus, yet the
conservative agenda and the tactics being used in an attempt to win the battle
of General Conference are decidedly foreign to what He said and did. If we are
truly followers of Christ, we must ensure that our goals are consistent with the
Gospel message. We must cease using political tactics to achieve our goals. We
must confront this situation boldly if the United Methodist Church is to remain
a relevant component of God's Gospel plan.
Rachel is a member of the United Methodist Church but all writing and speaking
engagements are done independently.
I believe that the direction the United Methodist Church is taking is in
basic conflict with the Gospel message. As a follower of Jesus, I feel
compelled to encourage others to re-examine their positions and begin dialogs
that will bring the entire denomination into alignment with the Gospel
message. This material has been sent to nearly 20,000 United Methodist clergy
and laity, throughout the Annual Conferences. Please share it freely as there
are no restrictions on its use.
Rachel Miller is a heterosexual, male cross-dresser and author of the
community best seller, The Bliss of Becoming One! Since 1996 Rachel has been a
voluminous contributor to the transgender press regarding spiritual and social
issues that affect everyone who is discriminated against, especially those who
are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered or questioning. With his wife Marsha
they demonstrate that gender variances can be integrated into every day
lives. Rachel publishes Email newsletters with a circulation of 5,000. Copies
can be found at: