Photo Courtesy of Dan R. Dick
Okay, following a surreal April (Korea, a week on the road in-state, two weeks at GC in Tampa) I took a week off to reflect, reconsider, and to hack my way through a rotten chest cold. Now I am back to review what the heck happened at General Conference — at least from my point of view.
Anyone who reads my blog knows I wasn’t overly surprised at what happened. I was a little surprised that Plan UMC went through as easily as it did from the floor, and I made a commitment to work with whatever happened, but there was no surprise or shock when judicial council ruled it out of order. The original three weren’t in order — why should a hybrid of the three be any different. I was one voice among hundreds trying to raise questions and concerns before GC, and they were summarily ignored. This could not have gone another way.
Then IOC proposal was slapdash and based on spurious outside “help” and Plan B and MFSA were reactive and incomplete (which I said all along, so I am not taking “cheap shots” now). The MInistry Study fared little better, for many of the same reasons. We can’t just make this stuff up as we go along.
And when the emphasis shifted from discerning a strong future to southern backroom politics, everything fell apart. The white good ol’ boys learned a new lesson this year: their day is done. We are a new church, and slapping together an old political machine to try to run it isn’t going to fly. The southern voting block is strong enough to STOP just about anything, but it is not strong enough to ram anything bad through.
So, if backroom manipulations and narrow-minded command-and-control thinking of the over-the-hill gang won’t cut it any more, what will?
First, let’s acknowledge the handwriting on the wall. We have a very serious decision to make before we return to the conversation of restructure: who are “we?” Are we a global church committed to working as one? Then we need to go ahead and reorganize to give both power and authority to the southern hemisphere. Are we a global confederacy, where separate but equal needs to emerge so that each region can decide for themselves what polity, policy and governance will prevail?
Are we open to all God’s children or merely some? If we welcome our gay and lesbian siblings into God’s church, we will need to be working together in significantly different ways. If we are a missional society organized for the good of all, that will mitigate our current structure designed for the good of “us” to the exclusion of hundreds of categories of “them.” Will we continue to ask outsiders to define us by secular measures and standards or will we reclaim our authority and integrity to become what God calls us to be instead of Madison Avenue and corporate America? See, these are not the questions we wait to answer AFTER we restructure — these are the questions whose answers we restructure around.