5. We do not trust authority nor want authority... until we need someone to blame. It's certainly human nature, and certainly a part of the Church. In my own annual conference, the only 'argument' was over one budgetary item: Item 4. District Superintendents. A $23,800 line-item increase (i.e., raise) was requested by CF&A (not by the cabinet), in an overall budget that had been reduced by $223,174. A retiree moved that this line item resort back to the previous year's budget. A large membership church pastor also spoke against the raise and said that his staff were not taking any raises and that the cabinet needed to step up and show leadership in this area (again, we didn't ASK for a raise. I guess they wanted us to jump up and refuse it). A campus minister also spoke against the budget increase. As did a deacon. As did the retiree who initially made the motion and got up once more to make his point (I think we were already getting the idea!). It was interesting to me how the discussion centered on district superintendents instead of CF&A, and that the other $9,126,189 wasn't debated (there were budgeted reductions and increases in other areas that we not debated). Someone sent me a text message during debate and said that everyone was getting in their last say before guaranteed appointments go away - which got a chuckle and put it all into perspective for me. In the end, our action reduced the budget by 0.26%. After that, we worshiped and celebrated the pastoral appointments and the conference in general. We were reminded that our conference theme for the week was "Extravagant Generosity." That brought a smile too.
Now, I don't need (and certainly don't deserve) a raise; to quote a friend of mine, we don't deserve anything. One person came up to me and swore that he believed that the motion to decrease the budget wasn't personal. I overhead another person come up to the new D.S. and say, "We're not blaming you," (I'm still trying to reconcile those two statements). I certainly won't judge the motives of individuals and am content to let God deal with the spirit of others' as well as my own. But the fact of the matter is that the cabinet made some tough calls this year that were not well-received. Those tough calls are not going to go away; they're going to get harder. My prediction is that the superintendency (general or district) is going to be an even harder task as resources become more scarce. In this day and age, managing the UMC has become a nightmare, but that's what D.S.'s primarily do - manage. And a bishop's task - to manage AND lead - is a noble one. But today, it has become a near-impossible task. It is only possible by God's help.