Update by Stephanie Foretich, communications team member, MDiv student, Candler School of Theology.
Rev. Dr. Susan T. Henry-Crowe, dean of the Chapel and Religious Life,
Emory University, Religious Life Office
I have had the pleasure of working with Susan Henry-Crowe for the past two years in Emory's Office of Religious Life. As her intern, I have learned the importance of cultivating one's own Christian identity as well as the necessity to respect others' beliefs as a chaplain. Although at times I feel like being a United Methodist can be an incredible challenge as we try to make decisions on the basis of the entire Church, I must remember that Jesus Christ is our ultimate binding force. We, as United Methodists, are all unique, beautiful people who come to the Lord's table with a variety of experiences, all of which provide valuable, insights into the world around us.
As I sat and spoke with Susan outside near the bay, I asked her about her impressions thus far of General Conference. She laughed and explained that she really can not speak to that, and, as the president on the Judicial Council, she can't be in the committee meetings. Otherwise, during a trial, she could not say something to the extent of, “Well, I think so and so meant this when the committee passed this petition.” One thing I am realizing while here at the General Conference is that we often use the same English words, but assign different definitions to these words. It is amazing that we can even communicate at all!
For example, a lady from United Methodist Women spoke last week in the seminarian morning meeting about how women in the Church all struggle, but our problems vary. I completely agree with this. She then said that not all women would consider themselves “feminist” because they do not believe they can do everything by themselves. A few of my classmates and I were shocked by the way she was using the term “feminist.” Others would define a “feminist” as a person who believes that all people, regardless of their gender, should have equal rights. Indeed, I deeply appreciate my relationships with my family and friends. We are a communal species. One of my favorite quotes in The Creative Encounter by Howard Thurman is that, “The human spirit seems inherently allergic to isolation.” We simply can not divorce ourselves from society.
Susan explained that she loved her early years at General Conference because of the time she spent in legislation was very satisfying. Furthermore, she said that,
The genius of The United Methodist Church is that the Council of Bishops presides over the Church, the General Conference legislates, and the Judicial Council adjudicates disputes within the Book of Discipline. The beauty of this system is the separation of powers. In the legislation process, the delegates have the responsibility to act on behalf of the whole Church. The process is best when it is really democratic.
The challenge is for us to listen to one another, trust the Holy Spirit, and know that we love Jesus. Our process may not be perfect, but it is wonderful in that it allows all people to have a voice. Even if we do not agree on everything, as United Methodists, we must keep in mind that we are all followers of Jesus Christ. We must respect one another, love one another, and affirm each others' Christian identity.