Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Smith
In Virginia Bassford’s book (which is recommended reading for General Conference) she states:
Hegemony…is the perspective of the dominant culture, race, or group, as if it were the only perspective–everyone else needs to get on board. Hegemony is blind to the notion that we–you and I, perhaps most especially when we are divergent–are in this together. We each have distinctive points of view. Together, we can have a wide-angle outlook [that we need].
V. Bassford Lord, I love the Church and We Need Help, page 35.
One of the newest developments in the Call To Action conversation is that the pastors of the largest churches sent an open letter to General Conference delegates. It’s nice. It talks about the death tsunami and the coming doom and gloom of the UMC, the inefficiency of the General Boards, and the graying of the clergy. It asserts a need for organizational change so that the church can be focused on nurturing vital congregations. All boilerplate CTA stuff but worded in a way that even my skeptical young clergy friends are signing it.
But as I was reading Bassford’s book, that quote jumped out at me as I read the original signatories to this open letter, purportedly the pastors of the largest churches in the UMC. “Hegemony” means a dominant group that thinks alike. Now, each of these churches has grown and they meet regularly to learn from each other how to continue growing, so they clearly think of their churches in similar ways (at least on a spectrum, they would be together). And that’s fine, we want our churches to grow and it is great to learn from leaders that have grown their churches effectively. I don’t mind this hegemony group.
But as I read the signatories, I began to wonder if there was a regional hegemony as well in the Call To Action.
When we map the 87 clergy originators of this petition on Google Maps), we get a disturbing trend as far as how many signatories are from one area of the country. (here’s a map of the jurisdictional breakdown [or PDF here]):
- Northeast Jurisdiction signatories: 3
- Western Jurisdiction signatories: 2
- North Central signatories: 10
- South Central and South Eastern signatories combined: 72
So the Southern jurisdictions have nearly 5x the number of crafters to the letter than the other regions combined. That immediately put up a red flag for me. It becomes very difficult to not be disturbed when the recommendations coming from these churches represent the population density but not the vast diversity of the United Methodist Church.