As I sit back and look at the complexity behind the simplicity of this year's Wesleyan Gathering (which happens every four years in Florida), I am truly amazed. Much of it, as it almost always is, was having the right people in the right places. Or as my colleague Bob Whitesel often quotes John Maxwell: "You need the right people on the bus, and you need the right people in the right seats on the bus.
Here's some quick thoughts:
International Conference of the church
Sunday to Tuesday was business for the international Wesleyan Church. They were here from all over the globe. One great strength of Joanne Lyon, our General Superintendent, is networking (which is also a gift of my boss, Wayne Schmidt). We have partners in Egypt, Brazil, and South Korea who are really more kindred groups than subsets of our denomination. This is a great strength, IMO.
BTW, I was really impressed by the leadership of Richard Waugh and Lindsey Cameron in the international sessions. Richard gave a superb 8 point summary of Wesleyan thought. Lindsey did an amazing job at pulling together international position statements on homosexuality and refugees.
I've been doing an informal social analysis of the church. To me, this group fits with one section of the church. You might call this the missions group. These are the more traditional Wesleyans. These are the ones that really enjoyed Wednesday night's tribute by Ken Murphy to those who have gone before us and Thursday morning's traditional chorus segment with a tribute to Orville Butcher.
These tend to be the lifelong Wesleyans, the smaller church pastors. They are an important segment of the church. If the church should have a balance of "interest centers," this group probably should be one of three main voices in the balance of the church's interests, the traditionalists.
Something for Everyone
The diversity of the interest groups that each had something for them was amazing. For example, Russ Gunsalus got all the board members of the Wesleyan colleges together on retreat for the first time I think ever. During the second half of the week, there were teasers from Wesley Seminary and Asbury in a forum that reminded me of Hyde Park, where anyone can get up and talk about something.
To me, the theologians and academicians of a church should represent a second "interest center" in a church. They often don't, because academicians usually don't know squat about church politics, leadership, or how to win friends and influence people. But, usually, they do actually know something about something.
The Wesleyan chaplains got together with Gary Carr several times--don't think that's ever been done. There were things for clergy couples, almost like a retreat. All the different interests groups--church planters, pension fund, investment foundation--there were opportunities for them. Steve Wingfield even had a race car smack in the middle of the exhibition hall!
The third influence group in my mind are the "church growthers." They are the practitioners, the doers. I think they rightly should have the edge because they move the church forward. They tend to be so good at politics and communication that they often can dominate the traditionalists and theologians quite easily. I think it would be dangerous if they ever used their powers to run them over. With great power comes great responsibility.
The Denominational Leaders
I didn't mention the denominational leaders as one of the interest groups above because I think it is their job to make sure all of these interest groups have a seat at the table. Again, I think Russ' team has done admirably, with Gary Carr a master of logistics, Joel Liechty too clever for his own good, Charlie Alcock did a smash-bang job orchestrating the worship (exposing the denomination to its best worship leaders around the country--amazing orchestration!), Dave Higle is a pastor's pastor, a man truly without guile, Kim Craft and others did a great job of putting everything together.
I know there were problem solvers working tirelessly when rooms weren't available and all sorts of unexpecteds. Thanks to Bob Haymond for some creative work with my own room!
In the words of a family member, "I think this was the best Gathering yet."