This blog has been discontinued. See Adam Gonnerman for all future posts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

World Convention 2012 – A Gathering in Goiânia (Repost)

What follows is a post from August 2012 in which I review the World Convention of Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ. This event tied together two threads of my life; namely, Brazil and the Stone-Campbell Movement. I even took on the role of interpreter for three of the scholars in their workshops. This was truly a capstone event in my life, as by the end of the following year I was post-theistic. I consider the first 20 or so years of my adult life my 'First Act,' and the Second Act is what I'm living now as a Unitarian Universalist. If there's a Third Act, I hope it doesn't involve yet another change of traditions. It's not a great feeling to no longer be at home in a tradition two which I devoted so much time, energy, and thought.

When I first heard that the World Convention of Christian Churches, Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ would be held this year in Brazil, I was thrilled. As part of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement and former missionary to Brazil, this came as great news. Over time, though, I began to doubt that I would make it. Fortunately, it all worked out. My family took a vacation to visit relatives in Brazil in July, and I went with a group of men from the Churches of Christ in Uberlândia to World Convention.

To begin, the positives: Friends! I saw old friends I imagined I’d never see again this side of the resurrection. People from every phase of my connection with the churches in Brazil were there, from Campinas to Belém and all points in between. I also made new acquaintances, particularly with Newell Williams, Doug Foster and William Baker, three scholars for whom I translated on different days. 

While the fellowship was fantastic, there were some rough spots with this convention.

First, the evening worship sessions were way too long. I’m not saying this as a stodgy old grandpa (heck, I’m in my mid-30s), nor as a North American (the Brazilians with me also complained). We were expecting to be out of the evening sessions by 9pm, but every night the speaker didn’t take the pulpit until around that time. Because we were staying with relatives of someone in our group and did not want to inconvenience them, and also because we were exhausted after a day at the convention, we never heard any of the evening preachers for more than 15 minutes.

(left to right) Adam Gonnerman, William Baker 

Second, the organization of this convention left something to be wanted, particularly with regard to interpreters. It seems that organizers left translation up to volunteers, and made appeals the first two days for anyone willing to interpret to show up at a certain location after the first morning worship session. In Newell Willliams and Doug Foster’s first session on a global history of the Stone-Campbell Movement the interpreter was completely lost. Although he was fluent in English and Portuguese, he was unfamiliar with the subject matter and his vocabulary was lacking. After that session I spoke with him and the speakers and arranged to take his place the next day. That was fun! This happened again the last day of the convention when I went to attend William Baker’s talk on the Book of James and was drafted to translate because no one showed up to do it.

Third, there was only one small corner near the registration booth where wifi was available. This was an international convention and they had made a point of promoting a twitter hash tag (#wccc12), but there was virtually no Internet available.

(left to right) Newell Williams, Doug Foster, Adam Gonnerman
The first two negatives are really the only two that I think count, and the first can be explained by the fact that the local hosts for this gathering were from the Pentecostal branch of Churches of Christ in Brazil, those associated with the Concílio Ministerial das Igrejas de Cristo no Brasil. These churches took their beginning from the work of Disciples of Christ and independent Christian Church missionaries decades ago, embracing Pentecostalism over the years. They are distinct from the a cappella Churches of Christ, International Churches of Christ and traditional, instrumental Churches of Christ in Brazil. From past experience I can say that their worship style tends to be long and loud in comparison with the other branches of the movement found in Brazil. The other two points above explain themselves, I think.
(left to right) Wanderson de Jesus, Marcelo Lima, Nilson Ferreira
Despite how it may seem, I actually had a fantastic time at World Convention and am very glad I was there. The fellowship alone made the entire experience worthwhile, and in the end, isn’t fellowship really the point of this convention?