They say “the third time is the charm”. I met with the Bishop, her Assistant, and two District Superintendents for the third time in one month yesterday. This time we came together with an agreement we can all live with. We’ll be signing that agreement on Nov.10th.
I’ve been a pastor in the United Methodist Church for over thirty years. I’ve never had an extended conversation with a Bishop before this. I’ve never been in the Area Office before this. I’ve never been in the Bishop’s study before this.
I wasn’t sure what proper protocol is when visiting a Bishop. I have been listening on CD to Hillary Clintons’ new book, “Hard Choices”. Hillary talked about bringing gifts to dignitaries when she visited them as Secretary of State. I tried to think of some gift to bring the Bishop. The only thing I could think of was – cookies. So the first two meetings I brought her home-made cookies. Of course, she came to expect them and said she really missed them when I didn’t bring them yesterday.
Fortunately, this experience of meeting with a Bishop for the first time has been a good one. We’ve engaged in fruitful and frank dialogue. She’s been gracious and allowed me to share my hopes and dreams. At the same time, she’s been clear about what she’s willing to do and not do. She’s been firm about what she’s not going to publicly support at the present time.
I came in to each meeting with a specific set of proposals I wanted us to agree on. Each meeting I was firmly, but graciously rebuked. In this third meeting, she presented her set of proposals she wanted me to sign off on. We tweaked them a little, but I basically agreed to her proposals.
On the one hand, I was discouraged because I didn’t get my way. On the other hand, I came to realize that the Bishop seemed supportive of our movement toward inclusion and equality. Of course, the best news is that the Bishop did not want to send me to trial or penalize me or force me to say, “I’ll never do it again.” I thank God for that!
I’ll go to the Bishop’s office to sign that agreement soon. This time I’ll bring cookies!
I hope it’s not the last time I spend time with our bishop – Bishop Deb Kiesey. I’ve come to enjoy our times together.