General Conference hasn’t even begun officially, but the Convention Center is filling and a lot is happening.
This morning, Bishop Mary Ann Swenson of the California-Pacific Conference spoke at a United Methodist Kairos Response press conference, making a case for divesting church funds of three companies said to support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Bishop Swenson said a trip she made to the Holy Land last year persuaded her that divestment was the right policy.
“I will be with you in this movement for as long as it takes, until we can truly see peace,” she said.
Other speakers included the Rev. Alex Awad, a Palestinian Christian, and Rabbi Brant Rosen, leader of a Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation in Evanston, Ill.
“You have friends in the Jewish community and we are ready to stand with you,” Rabbi Rosen said.
Later in the morning, there was a press conference highlighting the work of the United Methodist Global Aids Fund. The Rev. Donald Messer noted that the fund was created at the 2004 General Conference in a grassroots efforts, and has since raised $3.5 million.
Most people at General Conference are staying at very nice hotels. But Brandon Lazarus, a Perkins School of Theology student and a GC page, and Luke Wetzel, a Duke Divinity student and delegate from the Kansas East Conference, are staying at The Lake House—a nondenominational Christian community.
They both said they wanted to be in a different setting, one where residents live communally and do service to the poor in the area. Both said they have found a great welcome from residents at The Lake House, who have asked them about John Wesley and prayed for GC—and given them rides to and from the Convention Center.
Here at GC, they met the Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith, a UM clergywoman from San Antonio who lives on the streets in solidarity with and ministry to the homeless. She’s here to advocate on immigration and other issues, and she’s staying outside. She said that on Sunday night, she got moved from her spot near the Convention Center. Security told her she had to go because a church group was having a convention there, she said.