Here is HOF journal from Winifred Keefer in the Yellowstone Annual Conf.
Subject: Re: [rum-nc]
HEARTS ON FIRE CONFERENCE -- MY EXPERIENCE
Date: Tue, 13 Sep 2005 00:10:43 EDT
I am Winifred Keefer in Yellowstone AC. I send items of interest to a
group of Reconciling folk in YAC as well as a few others. I have sent my
summary to this group. I am now sending a copy of Mark's summary to the group.
I will copy my report so you have it, in case you find it useful. I normally
send a daily report from gatherings like this, but my new computer did not
work, so I composed nightly and then sent the reports as one document.
up the good work you are doing in North Carolina. I am moving from Billings,
Montana, to Tucson, Arizona, to be near family. Minerva Carcano will be my
Hearts on Fire! Reconciling
gathering in Lake Junaluska, NC.
September 2, 2005, through September 5,
September 2, 2005 Friday in the South. Today we registered for the
Eighth National Reconciling Convocation that will end at noon on Labor Day.
A word about our accommodations. We are staying in Lambuth Inn which is about
a mile uphill from the meeting areas. We eat three meals here. We are here
because it is on the list of historic places and it is very nice. However, we
are driving or taking the trolley to the meetings. The trolley runs quite
The other feature of our conference that you may be aware of is
that we have many security measures being taken for us. As we wander peacefully
about this resort area, just across the street from the main entrance is a
large tent housing Southern Baptists who have a sign "Christian Biblical
Values" and it is reported that 20 KKK (Klue Klux Klan) members are also
outside the area. Many folk from this area reported getting many e-mails that
were negative to our gathering. We feel well protected. All this was referred
to as "manufactured controversy."
I will describe the worship area so you
can visualize the setting. There are two long black banners about 3 feet wide
spanning the top of the stage to the floor painted with a dove above the eye of
God on the left and a large lighted candle on the right. The pulpit Bible has
large rainbow ribbons falling over the front of the pulpit and in front of the
pulpit is a yoke for two oxen. The flame that was brought in Friday is in a
bowl in front of the stage area and on sitting closer is not real fire, but
waving red material that looks like flames. It is wonderful. Later it was moved
to the back when other items were placed in the front.
As you read this
document you will find the various Biblical passages used and the messages
given us by the Bible study leaders and the various preachers. Other comments
will also be made. Throughout this convocation many folks have been wearing
small stoles in rainbow colors. I wear the one I got at General Conference as
did many others. Indeed, the stole seems to be a major piece of apparel.
Sunday morning the flame at the front was replaced by a yoke carried in by two
people. More about that later.
And now to Friday evening. What a
wonderful, energetic, and inspiring way to begin our conference! We began the
evening worship with learning four part harmony on the opening song, "Freedom
Is Coming." The vibrant chorus of over 500 folks was equal to attending to any
gathering of Welsh folk. (In other words, I loved it!) Other high points were
the opening processional with the flame brought in by male and female Korean
dancers in containers similar to box kites; other liturgical dances; more
music; and wonderful preaching. The printed program was departed from at the
beginning to take an offering for UMCOR to go to hurricane relief. As of Sunday
the total collected was $11,578.
The preacher for Friday night was the
Reverend Beth Stroud whose trial last winter stripped her of her ordination
because she openly stated that she is in a partnership with another woman. The
appeal reinstated her credentials, but that is appealed to the Judicial Council
which meets in October. She preached from 1 Kings 19:4-15 and Elijah. She
admonished us to listen for each other, to hear God in the silence. She
mentioned that we are in the heart of a hurricane of prayer asking to transform
us. But how? And to what?
The Bible studies were designed by the Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin
Jeffrey Kuan and the Rev. Karen Oliveto. Dr. Kuan was not able to attend as his
gout made it difficult to walk. So Karen read his portions with great drama.
She claimed he is the Biblical scholar and she the preacher. To let us know
whose work was being read, pictures of each was put on the large screen.
Bible study was Acts 1:6-11 with emphasis on verse 8. The Rev. Karen Oliveto
urged us to not stand staring at the heavens at the disciples did after Jesus
ascended there (verse 10). We are not to be rooted to old ways and traditions.
We need to look to our future.
Following the Bible study those who had signed
up went to "covenant groups." My group of 10-14 (varies from time to time) is
a good mix of folks.
word is HOPE! We begin with breakfast in the Lambuth Inn. Alice Ann and I are
useful as we pass out the daily news letter. From this we learn that there are
over 550 folks in attendance and that over 30 Bishops have sent welcoming
notes. Later that number was expanded to nearly 40, including the 7 who are
here. There is a RMN Blogsite at rmnetwork.blogspot.com. I don't know if it
will be active when the convocation is over but I accessed it from the Hotel on
The scriptures for Bishop Minerva Carcano's sermon were 1
Kings 17:8-24 and Matthew 14:13ff. Her message was well received. Some
statements were: --In the feeding of the 5000 men (women and children were not
counted) no one was excluded. The disciples expected only themselves to be fed,
but Jesus fed all. --Exclusion of any one was wrong. --"Amicable separation"
excludes some; that is what is wrong with it. (This is a term used by the
confessing, Good News folk who think we can become two churches.) --Jesus
gives us more than we need. As United Methodists we need to avoid the "scarcity
attitude" of hoarding our resources. What if all funds of UMC used to
marginalize GLBT were to be spent on hospitality to all.
In welcoming us to
Lake Junaluska Jimmy Carr (director of Lake Junaluska Retreat Assembly)
mentioned that Bishop Charlene Kammerer would be with us, but is instead with
her son who is going to Iraq. Under Miracle Moments Jorge Lockward reported
that over a thousand clergy had signed the e-mail response to the letter from
Rev. Heidinger, the head of Good News, asking Jimmy Carr to refuse to let us
meet here. Some of you may have signed that letter.
Acts 2:1-13 was the
passage for Bible Study. The Pentecost story reversed the story of the Tower of
Babel. Those hearing the message understood it differently as each had a
different background. We as UMs have different answers to basic questions. We
must not devalue others. No one of us has a full understanding of God.
Before lunch the covenant groups met.
A highlight of our Convocation is the
afternoon with the bishops. The attendance for this session was attended by
more than 600 folk. Bishop Richard Wilke (he and his wife are authors of the
Disciple Bible Study series) informed us that controversy is no stranger to the
church. They cause our many denominations and have existed since the time of
Paul. Following his message a panel of 5 bishops moderated by a 6th was
presented. The moderator was Bishop Sally Dyck of Minnesota Episcopal Area. She
and three others were elected in 2004. The others are Bishop Minerva Carcano
of Desert Southwest, Bishop John Schol of Washington (DC) area, and Bishop
Scott J. Jones of Kansas area. Bishop Susan Morrison of Albany (NY) area and
retired Bishop Melvin Talbot rounded out the panel. They responded to about 5
questions that were pointed to their thinking as bishops. It is from their
responses that I gave this day the word of HOPE. Change is happening in the
Council of Bishops. Noted was the fact that in 1996 15 bishops supported
inclusivity in the church and that was reported as scandalous. Refer to the
previous fact that nearly 40 have sent messages of support or are present here
The panel was followed by ten stories of "us" told to the bishops.
They were stories of fear, of being denied the lead of worship, of being
"uninvited," of wanting to be part of a "family," of parents excluded when
their children are, and celebration of a marriage that took place in Canada.
When can it be celebrated in our church?
The workshop I attended was led by
Bishop Wilke who led us in looking at how Jesus was in "tension" with the
scriptures of his day. He broke laws to heal people and to make life better.
The evening ended with mountain music (we are in the Smokies) and an ice cream
================================ Sunday, September 4, 2005
Another great day, jam-packed with worship, thinking, learning.
for the morning worship was the Rev. Margaret Mallory, a dynamic black woman
from the West Ohio Conference. The scripture was 2 Kings 2:1-14, the story of
the passing of the mantle of Elijah to Elisha. We were challenged "I dare you"
to pick up the mantle. We are all called by God, often in a down time, when we
are willing to let God take control. Elisha was a risk taker and we are called
to be as daring. Remember, we are saved and sanctified and moving on to
Her sermon led us into taking our yoke by moving to various
places where folks were standing with basins filled with cloth yokes made for
this conference by many folk across the country. Following having this "stole"
placed on each one, we could go to the front and touch the yoke there. My new
stole was placed on me by the Rev. John Lewis of Yellowstone Conference. The
invitation to take the yoke of Christ was based on the membership vows
beginning with "Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness." You
recall the rest. Looking at the room full of folks with rainbow stoles created
a picture to recall by memory. (I am sorry I could not photograph during the
sessions. I do have photos of the worship area taken prior to the sessions.)
The Bible study was Acts 10, the whole chapter. It is the conversion of
Cornelius and others. The point made was that all who have received the Holy
Spirit should be baptized. Of course that means inclusion of all people.
lunch was in box lunches which we took to rooms designated for the various
jurisdiction. Western Jurisdiction had about 50, pretty good for coming so far.
Yellowstone was represented by John and Linda Lewis and myself. We discussed
the need for leadership in our conference.
The workshop I attended was
"Burnishing Your Shield: Combating Homophobia with Scripture" led by Youtha
Hardman-Cromwell of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. The most
important thing she said was that these responses will not change those who are
"literalists." The discussion on various passages was excellent. I have the
copy of the slides used for the presentation.
The Forum I attended following
the workshop was on Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions, Holy Unions &
Marriage. The information from those who have worked with these situations,
including Massachusetts where same sex marriage is legal.
the Award Celebration was held. Three were nominated for the Voice in the
Wilderness Award given for taking risks, despite isolation in a wilderness. The
award went to Elsie Vega, lay person from Spearfish, SD, who came out as a
lesbian at 76 years. She helped the church in Vermillion to become Reconciling.
The Cup of Justice Award given for taking bold action to invoke justice was
given to the Retired Reconciling Clergy of the New England Annual Conference
for their officiating at same gender marriages and committing to stand
together should any be charged by the church.
The end of a very full day was
a great concert by Jason and deMarco, a very energetic duo whose voices blended
========================= Monday, September 5, 2005
convocation ended at noon. The major items were the Bible Study with Karen Oliveto and the closing worship with communion.
The morning began with the
final gathering in Covenant Groups. Mine was excellent. The goal for these
optional groups was to enable those who wished to have a small group to discuss
anything pertinent to the convocation.
The artist who designed the worship
environment was introduced. Bon-Jeong Koo is a Korean with limited English and
wonderful ideas. I have mentioned the eye of God and other pieces of the visual
environment. One piece I have not mentioned is that the ceiling (high) was
draped across with wide white cloths. The cloths also fell from the ceiling
across the side of the balcony to the windows where they were cut into
streamers for wind to blow. These represented the tabernacle that was the place
of worship while the tribe of Israel wandered in the desert. We are still on
our journey in the wilderness. The flaming torch, which was moved from the
front to the back of the worship area, is for poor people and especially for
Though the majority of the participants were white, the team
designing the convocation included many of the minority groups which make up
Part of the visual environment at the back of the
worship area, hanging from the balcony as well as in the resource center was
the Shower of Stoles. The stoles that were given by or for some of my friends
were all present. We were told that of the more than 1000 stoles in the
collection 260 represent United Methodists. This is one fourth of the total.
There are 25 denominations and 6 countries represented now.
study was on Acts 16:16-34, Paul's missionary journey. Paul's teachings
vary as he was not systematic but contextual. This story tells of his driving a
demon from a slave girl. The comment is that this made his life more
comfortable, but deprived the slave girl and her owner of the income she had
earned him. This did not help the girl. This is followed by his being placed in
prison because of his interruption of the economic system for which he was
unable to make restitution. When the earthquake opened the doors, he and the
other prisoners stayed put and kept the jailer from killing himself. The
commentary was that he cared more about the jailer than the slave girl. In
viewing liberation the statement was that no one is free until all are free. We
were to ask ourselves, "Who liberated me? What was my response?" In working for
the liberation of others it is noted that marriage needs to be available for
all. The statement was made: "Holy unions are so 20th century." Marriage is
available for all in Massachusetts, Canada, Spain, and other countries. We are
committed to follow the radical gospel of Jesus Christ and find our own
liberation as well.
The Rev. James Preston was the worship preacher. The
scriptures were 2 Kings 4:38-44 and Luke 10:17-20. The passage from 2 Kings is
of a pot of food that was poisoned. He compared the UMC with this pot of food
containing death. The exclusions in our church make it death for some. We must
work for inclusion of all. We must be the church to transform the church.
The sacrament of Holy Communion was celebrated as a conclusion of the
Following lunch Alice Ann and I were privileged to be included
in the group of folks helping to take down the Stoles and place then in the
containers for transport to the next location. We consider this to be a sacred
act as each stole represents a story of someone who was not able to be both out
and a pastor, or some other sorrowful story.
A few comments:
The count of
attendance was over 600. In August the count expected was over 450. Some of the
increase was in response to the publicity about the Baptists and KKK objecting
to our presence. Folks in this area learned of our existence and came to
participate in the welcoming we offer. The collection for UMCOR was $12,528
received as cash or checks. The pledged support for Reconciling Ministries
Network was $30,100. The folks gave $1,400 for gratuities for the staff. The
Parents Reconciling Network gathered 60 people for a workshop. The Reconciling
Clergy folk all left with tasks to perform.
At the 1996 General Conference
the RMN used the theme "Open the Doors" and literally opened doors for those
entering the building. Following this the General Church adopted "Open Hearts,
Open Minds, Open Doors, " as its theme. In 2000 the theme was "wide is
Welcome: Extend the Table" with communion offered each noon at an outdoor site.
In 2004 communion was offered each noon in the meeting hall by the UMC. In
2004 our witness was "Watermarked: a Ministry of Assurance." "Remember your
Baptism" was high-lighted by bowls of water as folks entered. From a small
beginning in the fall of 1982, the RMN now has 198 congregations, 27 campus
ministries, and 22 communities.
For me a conclusion for this came not from
the convocation but from a quote read when Alice Ann and I visited the home of
Carl Sandburg near Asheville (at Flat Rock). In 1936 he wrote in "The People,
Yes" this statement. "The people have come far and can look back and say, ‘We
will go farther yet.'"
Shalom, (peace, harmony, health, wholeness,
justice in one word)