If you are a Methodist preacher, Annual Conference is a vital part of your clergy year.
Part family reunion, part revival, and part bureaucratic nightmare, the Western North Carolina Conference meeting has been a summer mainstay in my life since 1988.
Here are the Top Five moments from the 2016 edition, which I attended last week:
1. When Bryan Collier, pastor of The Orchard in Tupelo, Mississipi, said towards the conclusion of a compelling Thursday night sermon, “our causes have become our Gospel.” And he didn’t mean it as a compliment for the people called Methodists.
2. When James Howell, who is the pastor of Charlotte’s Myers Park UMC and is the Conference’s candidate for bishop (elections happen in July), said wistfully, “I have spent my entire adult life as part of this Conference.” And I realized that for all practical purposes, so have I. In the way Methodism works, if James is elected, he will “bishop” in another Conference . . . so his words conveyed both a desire for the office and yet a regret that if he is elected, he will move away from his Conference family.
3. When Carolyn Moore addressed a standing room only crowd at our Western North Carolina Evangelical Movement and declared that the thought of making the United Methodist Church more regional and less global is actually her line in the sand. “If he’s not Christ for the whole world, he’s not Christ for any of it.”
4. When people I’d never met before came to the book signing for Solve . . . and ended up buying the other three books as well.
5. When I looked in a Lake Junaluska Assembly magazine and saw this picture staring back at me.