• Virginia(Ginger) Bassford

It is time...

Updated: May 17, 2019

I have resisted writing this story. It is time. I share now with the hopes that those who read it may benefit. I have worked hard not to embellish or exaggerate in any way. For those of you who are not Methodist, you might simply hit "delete."

Annual Conference 1999 should have been one of the highlights of my life. That was the year I was ordained an elder in the Central Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. I was a transplant, having been ordained a deacon in the (then) Southwest Texas Annual Conference in 1994. Being ordained as elder was the culmination of ten years of studying, learning, stretching, and growing beyond boundaries I even knew existed. Ten years worth of interviews and papers, and questions about my beliefs, my gifts, my potential as a pastor. It should have been a great year.

But 1999 was also the year before the 2000 General Conference. It was a time of great conflict and chaos in the UMC. It was also an election year. We elected representatives to go to General Conference as well as officers for the upcoming quadrennium. I had been nominated to serve as the CTC Chair of the Board of Church and Society - I was flattered by the invitation, but it was not something I sought for myself.

There was an issue that was to come before General Conference about which people were most vocal and passionate. There was a motion presented that would kill debate about the matter. It was my intention to speak in opposition to the resolution to quash debate, and I made that known. I thought - and I still think - that open dialogue is the best way to be in relationship with each other. Even when - especially when - the conversation is difficult.

That night, as we ordinands finished our soggy sandwiches and lined up for photographs, one of the persons who had been mentor to me came and told me that if I spoke from the floor of the annual conference as I had intended, there was a group who would make sure that my name was replaced as chair of the board of Church and Society. I was to contemplate, make a decision and let him know at breakfast the next morning.

During the service of ordination my heart was broken, and my mind was a blur. When it came time for my husband and I to go forward and me kneel to be ordained, I almost turned left to walk out of the church instead of turning right to kneel. I was not sure I wanted to be a part of ANY church at that moment.

The first thing the next morning, the resolution to squelch dialogue came forward. I addressed it as I had planned. That afternoon my name was lifted up as chair of the Board of Church and Society along with the slate of other leaders and officers. Someone went to a microphone and made the motion that my name be replaced with that of another individual. After a verbal vote, then a show of hands vote, then TWO standing votes, the bishop declared that the other person would be the chair.

I said that night should have been one of the highlights of my life, and it was not. However, it was one of the most clarifying moments I have ever had - ever. That night taught me that there are some things I believe in so passionately, so firmly, so resolutely that I am willing to risk what others think of me; I am willing to risk whether or not other people like me; I am willing to risk whether or not people even hate me. I risk in order to do what I think God calls me to do, because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

We are at just such a moment in The Methodist Church. It is a time that calls forth both the best and the worst in people. May each of us seek God's will, discern God's call, and have the courage to follow it.

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