I Don't Know Cotton


I wrote this column two weeks before the special session of General Conference started. If you’re reading the printed version of the magazine, the special session has probably been over for a few days. So, I’m going to talk about farming. 

I like to think I know something about farming. I grew up on what used to be a traditional farm, but by the time I was on the scene it was already becoming a rarity. We had cattle, hogs – even sheep. We raised chickens and had milk cows. We baled a lot of hay, and had corn, soybeans, milo, oats and wheat on the cropland. 

When I went to college, in addition to my 33 hours in the School of Journalism, I took 50+ hours in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. My ag classes included agricultural engineering, animal husbandry, several rural sociology classes and enough agricultural economics to get a minor in it. After college, while working for the Saint Joseph News-Press, I was their reporter for anything relating to agriculture in the 22 counties that we covered. I was also editor of their monthly publication, Farm and Country. 

Yet, on a trip last fall to a church in the Southeast District, I saw something totally foreign to me: cotton. I was only 150 miles from the farm I grew up on, but I don’t know anything about cotton. I don’t know how you till, or if you do, to plant it. I don’t know what kind of machine plants it or when. I don’t know what type of soil is best. I don’t know how long it takes it to grow. I don’t know when it needs to rain and when it needs to be dry. I don’t know when it is harvested or with what kind of equipment. After harvest, I don’t know where it is taken to be sold. I don’t know if it is sold by weight or volume. I don’t know where the buyers take it after they buy it. I don’t know if different types of cotton are grown for different purposes. I don’t know how the price is set, how much it fluctuates and whether or not there are governmental price supports. 

You would be hard pressed to find someone who knows less about cotton than I do. Yet, I can make some assumptions. I think seed is probably put in the ground in some manner in the spring, the plant grows through the summer, and the cotton part must be harvested by some type of baler around the end of the summer. To sell it, I guess I could just follow a neighbor’s truck who is hauling his cotton somewhere and see where he goes. 
The General Conference session later this month in St. Louis is going to be kind of like this. Every single delegate there is going to know a lot about General Conference. Since The Missouri Annual Conference hasn’t had an election since the last General Conference, you can be assured that everyone has experience. Since most delegates get elected over and over, they have a lot of General Conference experience. 
Yet, not one single delegate, or event organizer, has ever been part of a special session of General Conference to address issues of human sexuality. Every single person involved, at every level, is winging it. 
The people who came to St. Louis for the Special Session of General Conference know less about how to navigate this Conference than I do about cotton. 
But maybe you don’t have to know a lot. Moses didn’t know much about water crossing. Daniel was no zoologist. Shadrack, Messack and Abindigo didn’t have their HVAC certification. Faith got them through it. 
I remain confident that this is all going to go O.K. It’s unexplored territory, but we have experienced people in the process who are certainly putting forth a lot of effort to try and figure it out and make things go well. Leaders that we all elected are doing their best to arrive at solutions for the denomination. We’ve been praying about it for months. By the time its all over everyone involved will have learned a lot about how to do this.

By: Fred Koenig, Editor