What to Do About General Conference 2016

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False Dichotomy

The biggest thing wrong with the entire premise of this piece is the idea that there is something unholy about conflict; that issues ranging from church order through ministry to social witness are some "other" thing than the business of being Church.

The only reason we couldn't "do business" in Tampa last year was the process was hijacked to ensure that no serious business got done. That was clear enough from the outset; all the hoorah over the Connectional Table's report and recommendations masked other moves by those who wished to silence voices calling for a variety of changes, from the recognition of our global connection to the movement of the Spirit in recognizing the social and cultural changes in which the church lives and works. The failure to muster more than a bare majority affirming the ubiquity of Divine Grace tells those of us who love the UMC how much work we have still to do.

We can pray and gather around a common table and worship and sing together, acknowledging that ours is one Lord, one faith, one baptism. We can also move from worship and also acknowledge that how we express that confession in practical terms differs. We can acknowledge that these differences are important, too.

What we can't do is pretend that passive-aggressive avoidance tactics like a call to prayer will somehow make the differences less different. We should pray together, then be willing to get in the mix - because this is about ministry, about a world that still needs to hear the word of grace and hope.

Geoffrey more than 4 years ago

general conference

Sounds like an idealistic vision for what General Conference could be like. As an idealist myself, there are parts about that which appeal to me. However, there is also a practical side of me, one that is experienced in nonprofit organizations and at all levels of the church.

That part of me recognizes how important the business of General Conference is; not only can we not go eight years in between times of doing it, there isn't any room at all for not doing it.

We can't operate without a budget, and we can't just past a consensus motion to automatically renew the current budget for four more years. Fiscal developments require adaptation. Similarly, whatever proposals GCFA brings relating to retirement plans and health plans can't be ignored or put off.

We can't ignore whatever proposals the general agencies bring to us regarding whatever changes to themselves they feel they need in order to do their work effectively moving forward.

Substantive proposals are going to be developed requiring changes to the Discipline, things that broadly affect how we operate as a church or more narrowly, but still profoundly, affect smaller segments. Some of those changes will be necessary and others won't. Without acting on them, none of them can be enacted.

As an activist, I am never going to be able to get behind not bringing proposals to address injustices. We all have different opinions on just what precisely the injustices are, and it is certainly often a challenge to build the support of even a simple majority on a number of issues. Nevertheless, we have widespread agreement that there are injustices within our church and in the larger society, and we must struggle together in those areas. Accepting just a little injustice, a little discrimination, a little harm, is never going to be okay.

So acknowledging that we can't not do business, how can we go about this while incorporating more true holiness in and as we go about our work? Doing so is a challenge, but I think that is the challenge that is worth engaging rather than fighting the challenging of surviving another four years without addressing any of the business of the church.

Kevin Nelson more than 4 years ago

General Conference

Ah, Wes. I love your optimism and confidence in the Holy Spirit. How about a small accomodation? After a week of worship, prayer, fasiting and feasting let the Conference address the report so adroitly sheilded from action in 2012 -- the world wide nature of the church. We might have the good sense to do something creative and Spirit driven.

Judy Craug more than 4 years ago