The set-aside bishop did not pass (more distrust of our bishops) but guaranteed appointments were done away with (distrust of the competency of our clergy as well as our laity - where do we think clergy come from in the first place?).
A hybrid Plan UMC was thrown together and brought to the floor of General Conference (we suspended the rules to do so). It passed with a strange feeling among the delegation. No one was really happy with the plan and yet the anxiety generated leading up to the General Conference left many feeling that we needed to do something (even if we weren't really sure what we were passing).
Then the Judicial Council ruled Plan UMC unconstitutional and we had to scramble. We passed the original General Agency proposals to restructure their own bodies. Not as sweeping but it did cut the budget to what our projected income would bear over the next four years.
The feeling leaving General Conference was unusual. For the first time, legislation was left on the table without seeing debate on the floor. The current structure stayed basically intact. We didn't add any over-site to the General Agencies which didn't help the mistrust of them (which may be a carry-over of the distrust of big government by the US delegates).
There's been a lot of blog posts lamenting our lack of movement. There's been a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. I'm not sure why anyone who's studied systems theory was surprised. This was a demonstration of the main tenet:
Systems resist change.
We saw the same thing in 2008 when the Worldwide Nature of the Church proposals passed General Conference (barely) and then failed to secure the two-thirds support needed by the annual conferences.
We see that change is needed by the population dynamics but we are unable to agree on what that change should look like. And yet change will come.
It will likely come at the ground level. Churches will learn to successfully share the gospel with a changing society and they will grow or they won't and they will close. Unfortunately, there will be more closings than growth. But we will survive.
And this will facilitate change.
We may have forgotten that God is a part of this process. We believe that God precedes us wherever we go. That includes what we do as a denomination.
I shared a devotion with our Annual Conference Council leading up to General Conference. It was about when Elijah thought he was the only faithful one. Then God informed him that there were 7,000 faithful subjects left (which indicates the perfect number left to accomplish God's designs). Elijah remembered that something larger than himself was a part of the change.
He learned to trust in God and not worry.
A Tale of Two Cities ends with revolution but it also ends with sacrifice for the greater good. If we can learn to trust in what Christ has taught us about this, we will be fine.
The church will look different but that is to be expected.
We're better off leading out of confidence rather than anxiety.
It is a confidence that God is out in front which really is the best of times.