Knowing Nothing at GC2012




My favorite thing about GC2012 is also the scariest: We don’t know what we are doing.


I don’t mean that in a bad way.  This is inevitable in a time of massive change and reform.  If you try something completely new, you can’t know for sure where it will take you.  That’s true for guaranteed appointment, for restructure, for pensions, for the changing global nature of the church. We gather all of our data, make our projections and think through various outcomes, but in the end, we are flying blind.


This state of not-knowing is as unsettling as it is necessary.  It’s what makes this General Conference seem so surreal.


On my regular blog I recently told this story about not knowing:


“When I was 12, I had a friend who could say only three words: “I don’t know.” Riding my bike home from school, I would stop by the nursing home to visit Mrs. Feemster. She was always in her room because a stroke had not only wrecked her speech but also left her bedfast. I would tell her about my day, and she would listen sympathetically to anything I wanted to say for as long as I wanted to say it; this is the great advantage of bedfast friends.


“Whatever I asked her, whatever I told her, she always replied, “I don’t know.” If I told her about the good things that had happened in my day, Mrs. Feemster would respond to me in a cheerful voice, “I don’t know.” When I told her about a bad day, Mrs. Feemster would still say “I don’t know,” but in a sad voice. And whether I said good things or bad things or nothing at all, she liked to pat my hand and watch my face with soft eyes. I counted her as a good friend


“After a few months, my brother told me that I was a fool if I believed Mrs. Feemster was my friend; Mrs. Feemster didn’t even know who I was. It was a blow. So I went to talk with Mrs. Feemster about it. I told her what my brother had said and asked, “Mrs. Feemster do you know who I am? Are we friends?” I expected her to say, “I don’t know.” But Mrs. Feemster looked at me and said nothing for a long time. Then she smiled and said very slowly, each word separated by the effort it took to get them out, “I … love . . . you . . . Beka.” I was so excited. “Really?” I asked. She patted my hand and smiled again, “I don’t know.”


“This is my life – as a mother, a wife, a professor … a Christian, [and a General Conference delegate]. My words are inadequate. I can’t get things right. I don’t know. I muddle along. And, then, every now and again, by God’s grace or an opening in my heart or some other strange circumstance, I stumble on the right answer, the truth, the fitting thing to say. The rest of the time, it’s just an everyday slog through my own ignorance.”


At General Conference 2012 we have found ourselves in the rich and unsettling state of not knowing. There is no quick and sure way out of this strange place.  There is nothing left to do but to love as best we can and to  trust in God through the not-knowing.






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  1. Curtis Matthys


    Love the story, it rings so true to me right now. I think it could be the theme of my internship over the last two semesters.

    There have been so many times when I felt like “I didn’t know,” Now as I take my first appointment as a provisional elder, the not-knowing continues. In the midst of not-knowing, we are called to love the best we can and to trust God in and through the not-knowing.

    Thanks for all you do as a mother, a wife, a professor, a Christian, and a General Conference delegate! I am proud to consider you a friend.

  2. Sheila Jones


    I love that story! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us during General Conference. I’m sure it’s been an interesting and frustrating journey for everyone there and for us as we read about it and listened to it. My prayers are for all of you to have safe travels home, rest for your weariness, and strength to continue to move forward knowing that God is with you and with all of us.



  3. Len Delony

    Beka. I think you are really on to something here. We are in a profound time of “unknowing” and to get caught up at efforts to be in control is counter to a life of faith. We do need to be wise in pour discernment, but trusting and following God’s way of love through the darkness where we discover healing and salvation in these difficult times. Prayer seems to be what opens us to that way, and gives us courage, not to cling to old ways, but follow God’s new ways. Tom Albin has helped lead a wonderful network of people lifting prayer as central to how we can discern and be faithful. Here is a FB post I made just a few minutes ago thanking him for his faithfulness:

    Thanks again Tom (Albin) for your persistent efforts to bring prayerful Presence into this whole General Conference process. To quote Ephesians again (from GC08), prayer is what will help us be “rooted and grounded in Love” through GC12 and beyond. God is working in this revival and renewal movement through all our human limitations. But we do need to help God, by finding intentional, prayerful rhythms that enable us to let go of our own agendas and open our eyes and ears to God’s guidance through grace. An AGENDA FOR PRAYERFUL DISCERNMENT must continue to grow, even after GC12 ends and everyone returns home. We must all become more intentionally prayerful and discerning in our local communities, and through that, become more interconnected around the world. It is through this power of the Spirit at work within us, that we will be “able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine.”


  4. Jenni Duncan

    Wonderful story & so true of life as we live it today. When we must say “I don’t know,” may we be encouraged by Who we know.

  5. Kay G, Johnson

    Thanks for all of your blogs about GC. Today’s was especially truthful and truly a metaphor for the life of faith with one exception. We “KNOW” that all day long God is working for good!

    Traveling mercies for you back to Texas!!


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