"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way..." -- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
This could describe the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church. There's been a lot of anxiety over what we accomplished but maybe more anxiety over what we didn't.
The Call to Action received some major support by some heavy hitters in United Methodism. A lot of bishops put their stamp of approval on it. Rev. Adam Hamilton spoke out for it before and during General Conference. He even showed a video interviewing a woman who was closing her church. The implication was that this is where all our churches are heading if we don't get it together.
It was stated by Rev. Hamilton as well as many others that what we do with the structure of the General Agencies really won't make or break the denomination. The future lies at the local church level. These moments of clarity didn't subdue our anxiety though.
I'm wondering if the fact that the majority of our leadership is coming from the Baby Boomer generation makes a difference in the level of anxiety. They've always had the biggest numbers and they may be concerned about their legacy. But schools have closed due to changing population dynamics and churches are now experiencing some of the same.
The Call to Action failed to secure enough ground support to pass. And yet there was a great pressure to change due to the impending population shift within our denomination. Basically, we have aged as a people. The majority of our churches are old. Everyone's looking ahead ten or twenty years and all we can see is tumbleweeds blowing around our sanctuaries.
Plans to change our structure abounded. The Methodist Federation for Social Action was the first group to fire a shot across the bow with their own plan. Then a collection of lay and clergy largely from the Southeastern Jurisdiction put forward Plan B.
None of these passed through the General Administration committee. Those serving on other committees seemed to be shocked that no new plan passed and would be presented with majority support. Derogatory comments were made about the committee members as if they were less holy or intelligent than the rest of us for not being able to get something -- anything -- passed.