Commentary: Goodnight Portland…


“The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

So said Texas Tech sports information director Ralph Carpenter in the final moments of the Southwest Conference tournament finals as the Aggies were heading towards a tie.

Well, I think the lady was height/weight proportional, but someone definitely sang to close out  the 2016 General Conference in Portland.

There have been and will be many words written about this General Conference by far wiser folks than I. After two weeks of 18 hour days, I (like most of the delegates) am just short of being a puddle on the ground, and I probably need to walk away to get some perspective on what really happened.

The conference was both historic (in the choice to ask the bishops to lead) and frustrating (in the glacial pace of business on the floor). I think everyone walks away concerned and troubled, some very angry indeed, as we ponder the future of our church. Change is ‘gonna come — whether it is finding a new way to live with one another in the face of difference, or the division of what became united in 1968. There is no way forward without change, and I truly believe our bishops understand that. So hold on, for we’re in for a wild ride over the next few years.

While the conference has been rocky and troubled, what kept me from totally losing my sanity was the beautiful city of Portland, which has been an amazing host. This is a very cool town. Yes, in many ways it IS Portlandia, the liberal, hipster mecca of the west coast. But it makes perfect sense because the city is lovely, the food is amazing, and the hospitality has been super. Like all cities of its size, it has its struggles, and I wonder at times if we wouldn’t have all been better served by closing down the conference one day to be in ministry with the homeless that are present throughout the city. But Portland has been gracious to its Methodist guests . . . even though most of the Uber drivers I had couldn’t quite comprehend what this whole General Conference this was about.

As most of you know, The United Methodist Reporter is essentially a three-person operation 90% of the time, and you could argue that given our day jobs it really isn’t that. We came to Portland with the dream of providing a different type of coverage than what was available through the denominational press (whom we deeply respect and love . . . but more about them later). We called on some friends to help us and packed ourselves into a 4 bedroom house in order to be able to afford to come. As the Executive Editor, I wasn’t at all sure we could pull this off, but our team gelled and I’m immensely proud of what we’ve been able to offer. Very frankly, we couldn’t have done this without the help of Laura Allen, Ben Hanne, Wes Magruder, Christy Thomas, and Anna Voorhees and we can never fully repay them for what they brought to the table. We are all a bunch of self-proclaimed MethoNerds who love our church, and we hope that what we offered was helpful to a better understanding of the conference.

Likewise, we are very very grateful to the cooperation of the United Methodist News Service and UMCom in offering hospitality and technical support in the Press Office. I think they came to enjoy the running commentary from the “UMR Back Row,” and Tim Tanton and Bridget Sloane are to be especially thanked for both tolerating and assisting us throughout the entire two weeks.

Of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention our sponsors for our GC2016 coverage. Ministry Matters ( have been long-time friends and collaborators and we look forward to working together in the future. Southwestern College likewise has been a partner in several projects, and Steve Wilke is to be especially thanked. We also are developing new relationships with SparkHouse and Central Methodist University that we hope will be fruitful. Finally, we received several kind gifts from individuals to underwrite our operation and we want to say thanks for your support.

It’s now 10:30, we have to leave for the airport at 4, and soon I’ll be heading back to Nashville and all the comforts of home.

Thanks Portland for your new place in my life.

I hope we can see you again when we’re a little less tense.


Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Steve HickleSherrie Lynn Robertsonjimmie shelbyRichard F HicksOuida Lee Recent comment authors
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Donald W. Haynes, UMR Columnist
Donald Haynes

Thanks, Jay. Your words describing the next two or three years as a “wide ride” are accurate. Thanks for your coverage. I am amazed (and concerned) that three of you are doing what a small army used to do in editing UMR. Good job!

jimmie shelby
jimmie shelby

This writer wonders why the umc spent all the dollars on a conference that could have been predicted by those members who stayed home. The African Church has been marginalized. Those who sit in pews and pay the apportionment tax have been bilked out of dollars that local ministries might have used for the building of the Kingdom. The council of bishops still yet refuses to lead but rather kick the worn and rusty can on down the road again. One wonders how many will leave the umc in the next 4 years? It is a sad, sad, sad commentary.

Richard F Hicks
Richard F Hicks

The first line of this piece isn’t inclusive. I choose to be offended. I demand a safe zone. Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Ouida Lee

I, too, believe that we are in for a wild ride, but I remain hopeful. With hearts of love for God and neighbor, and the command to love one another as a description of being a disciple of Jesus Christ, and with the comfort of the Holy Spirit surrounding us, nothing will be impossible. We left General Conference with prayerful hearts, and belief that the Bishops of our Church will truly commit to have open conversations with differing ideas and being led by the Holy Spirit and diverse voices, we can live together. There will have to be change, and… Read more »

Sherrie Lynn Robertson
Sherrie Lynn Robertson

People don’t “create their identity around who they have sex with.” That’s a misconception spread by extremists. What are you, heterosexual? At what age did you decide to become heterosexual? People are what they are.

Steve Hickle

It’s not about 1968, it’s about 1939. And 1844 and 1828.

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