I hope I do not sound out of line here, but there is a fundamental issue at stake, and we seem to do little but talk around it. Does the local church matter more than the general church? And if so, why do we bother with the general church?
I don't mean to single out this one article, truly, and I don't mean to single out Andy Langford who, as I have said, is a faithful leader--and one of whom we should be proud. But for all the red flags raised in his article and others, the issues being talked about as roadblocks (young people on Twitter, the judicial council, GC hijackers and hostage-takers, the Council of Bishops, everybody but Jesus Himself, to be honest) seem to be dwarfed by one very specific, clear, measurable issue.
40% of the General Conference was made up of delegates from the central conferences.
Mark Tooley would probably tell you that I am singling out the Central Conferences because I think they are comprised of savages who have not come around to my own way of enlightened thinking. Nonsense. Not two months ago, I was in Uganda working in the East Africa conference with Bishop Daniel Wandabula and Dean Rev. James Mwoho. I spent three years with United Methodist Volunteers in Mission before my current appointment, and it has been my pleasure to be in relationship with all kinds of folks in all kinds of cultures. I count as friends people who have served the church faithfully in the central conferences of the United Methodist Church, some of whom were central conference delegates at the 2012 General Conference. Do not dare try to paint me as someone who believes that our African and Asian and European United Methodist brothers and sisters are savages. These are my friends and colleagues you are talking about.
I should also note that I believe, 100%, that our sisters and brothers in the central conferences deserve equal representation at General Conference. We ought to be in conversation, in fellowship , in relationship. But this is not what we are doing.
We are not in relationship with our sisters and brothers from the central conferences when we simply tell them how to vote so that it fits our agenda. We are not in relationship with our sisters and brothers when we use them as an argument for our own jurisdictional proportional representation (however legitimate that argument may be on its own merits). We are not in relationship when we used the growth in Africa as ammunition against changing cultural norms in the United States, as if God only blesses those who are the most faithful (c.f. Adam, Eve, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, every other human being in the Bible).