I’m in Africa on the east coast, less than a mile from the Indian Ocean, in Maputo, Mozambique. It’s winter here in the Southern Hempishere, and the moon at night does a smiley face upside down on the quarter, not the South Carolina crescent. The meetings have been going well. I have been the discussion leader for our delegates from the Annual Conferences of North Mozambique, South Mozambique, and the Provisional Annual Conference of South Africa. Half the gorup speaks Portugese and the other half speaks English.

At least I’m able to use my French minor from college and able to read their Book of Discipline which is dated 2008, but actually is a reprint from 1976! They still have the two step ordination process from Deacon to Elder even though we changed all that in 1996. They also have their “Speciale Councilohs” which like some other AC’s are not church law but are included in the middle of their BOD’s as if they were. It is very anachronistic, BUT the churches are vital and thriving.

So it’s been interesting to find out why they’re doing so well as we have asked questions about each person’s story as a UMC, what are their connections with other AC’s, how do they do appointments, elect Bishops, and why in the world do they want to stay in the UMC, especially if they are voting on things at the GC (always in the US) they don’t pay for and don’t try to put into practice. That’s the rub as our Worldwide UMC Study Committee does its work. We are asking the question, “What is essential in a common Book of Discipline that CANNOT be adapted across the whole connection?” If we can’t agree on that then we really don’t have a connection. We have a colonialistic money laundering enterprise. I know that’s harsh, and may not even be that accurate, but it feels that way. So pray for us as we discern what it means to be sisters and brothers in the UMC “connection” – the operative word.

Then there’s the connection we all know called family. I wrote two blogs ago about my two brothers and how my oldest brother, Carlee, was in the hospital. He was improving so much and sounded so much better that I didn’t even give you an update. Yesterday was his 70th birthday! Yesterday he died. My middle brother, Ralph, called him up and sang “Happy Brithday,” yesterday morning and a couple of hours later he just died. I have been on the phone through Skype to Julie, his precious daughter, and to my brother, Ralph.

But, I’m telling you, Carlee got the best birthday present ever. He has always loved being the star of the show and he has done it again! He got his very own birthday party yesterday with Mother, Grandmother, Daddy, Papa, and a host of others – Communion of Saints having a blast! I don’t begrudge his death. I just wish that I had been there, but I’m grateful that plane flights can be changed and I’m heading back to do his service this Thursday. It took 17 flying hours to get down here and I start in the morning for the long trip back. I”ve met new sisters and brothers in Africa, and I’m going home to tell another “Goodbye, and I love you, Carlee.” Maybe that’s the best connection whether as a denomination or a family – love.

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