Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Withdrawal Speech July 18, 2008

Please note this is reconstructed from notes and memory, and may differ slightly from words actually spoken. In addition, some of the references, like the beginning words, made sense in the context of the Jurisdictional Conference, but may make less sense out of context.

“It is good to be here. It is a blessing to be among friends.” I thought I would try this out if only for one brief, shining moment.

This morning my bishop, Sally Dyck, asked me how I was doing, and I told her I was doing fine. I told her I rather liked roller coasters. But as the roller coaster comes around the bend this time, the time has come for me to get off. The ride is coming to an end for me.

As I get off, however, there are two signs that face me. You know how that is when you get off a roller coaster and see such signs. On one sign are these words from the New Testament. I don’t often see them quoted, but they are beautiful words – I Corinthians 16:14: “Let all that you do be done in love.” On the other sign I see is this poem by Wendell Berry:

Whatever happens
those who have learned
to love one another
have made their way
to the lasting world
and will not leave,
whatever happens.

As a Christian, I understand love to include justice, peace, reconciliation, joy, healing. Whatever happens, love.

I want to say “thank you” to a number of people. First of all, I want to thank those who shared this journey with me. Frank, Tim, Randy, Wesley, Jerome, Laurie, Jorge, Larry, Greg, Christina, Julius – it was an honor to have been on this journey with you. We can use a lot of metaphors for what this is like, some more harsh than others. I rather like to think of this as a stroll that we take together, and every so often, one of us peels off to return home until only one is left to take the next steps toward a new home. I have enjoyed your company.

I want to thank all the delegates who took time to listen to me. To those who heard me and said, “I think I could vote for this guy” – thank you. To those who heard me and said, “I could never vote for this guy” – thank you. Listening is a profound act of love.

To the Minnesota delegation I owe deep and profound thanks. You have surrounded me with love. When my energy was flagging, yours never was. Thank you so much.
I have had the great privilege and joy of sharing this week with the three most important women in my life – my wife, Julie, and our daughters Beth and Sarah. Beth was kind enough to take me up on my invitation to introduce me to delegations, and I shall never forget that.

Finally, I want to thank the God of Jesus Christ, this God who loves me and seeks to love the world through me, this God who loves you and seeks to love the world through you, this God who loves the church and seeks to love the world through the church. God embraced me at baptism and I reached back through the ministry of an eighth grade Sunday School teacher at a United Methodist Church. I said “yes” to God’s “yes” in my life. God continues to work on, in and through me so that I am different and the world is different – so that people are embraced, with God opening my arms wider than I had ever imagined as a kid; oppressive systems challenged – systems I did not even know existed growing up. God took this shy ninth grader whose greatest fear was public speaking and whose councilor told him the next step was to lead because he had the gifts for it, God took me and has brought me to this place. I can testify to the transforming power of God in my life and in the world.

Whatever happens, love. Whatever happens, do justice. Whatever happens, create peace. Whatever happens, reconcile. Whatever happens, heal.

Bishop Palmer [Bishop Gregory Palmer, Iowa Area who was presiding at the time], I know we have to take another ballot. I would like to invite all the delegates to join me in voting for Julius Trimble. Thank you.

Well, that’s it. Thank you, too, for your interest.

Trying to Create Beauty,


P.S. Now that I have completed my New Testament project, which occupied this blog for the past year, I wondered what to do with it. For now, I will use this as a companion blog to “With Faith and With Feathers.” I may take an idea introduced there and probe it in more depth or from a different angle. Maybe a new long-term project will find its way into this space. By the way, With Faith and With Feathers has a more detailed description of my experience as a bishop candidate.

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