Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Potter, the Clay, and General Conference

by Jordan Harris

General Conference is a ten day long experience of representatives from annual conferences all around this world. Delegates meet, debate, converse, and vote all in the name of God’s will for The United Methodist Church. Thousands of petitions, amendments and proposals are brought before the body to playfully discern what God’s will is. However how can we be sure it is actually God’s will being done, rather than one or two conferences within the denomination?

General Conference reminds me of Paul’s imagery in his letter to the Romans. In chapter nine, Paul is echoing the prophet Isaiah when he says “has the potter no right over the clay?” (Romans 9:21a). Paul, speaking to the church in Rome, is arguing for the righteousness of God here in chapter nine. He is answering the question, “in light of the resurrection of Christ, is God still righteous?” Paul here in chapter nine is calling out the people of the church, by answering the question he posed which was “Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?”

This Job style question is a full frontal calling out of those who think they know better than God. This type of accountability is one that tends to make most people uneasy, to say the least. Surely we wouldn’t say to a friend, “so you think you know better than God?” Or to a co-worker “God wants us to focus on my part of the job and ignore whatever it is you have to do.” Paul and Isaiah pose this question to people who thought they knew God’s will. The people in exile in Isaiah 64 and the church in Rome in Romans 9. They did this in a loving manner in which to try and hold the audiences accountable to one another and to their common purpose.

Clay is made up of all different kinds of minerals and soil. There are differences about the different make ups of two samples of clay. One might be mostly calcium, iron and water, while the other clay is made up of mud, rocks, and organism. No two clays are exactly the same because of this. There is light clay, dark clay, hard clay, soft clay.

I think that it would be in order to stand at the prophetic pulpit and speak the words of Paul and Isaiah to General Conference, just as a friendly reminder to us. Who are you to tell the potter what to make? It is evident by the UMC plan legislation that we are in the business of trying to figure out what we are to do, but what is ever more evident is us forgetting that we are simply the potter’s clay. We belong to God. He is our common goal.

I enjoy being in dialogue with the people here at General Conference; however humility, that is remembering we are simply the clay is left out of the conversation. We, as United Methodists need to take a stance that we humbly are trying to figure out just want kind of pot God is molding us into.


Jordan Harris is a junior at Eastern University and a bible major working on the candicy process. He is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a lay delegate to General Conference from the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

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