United Methodist News Service Photo by Paul Jeffrey
A legislative committee votes during the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth, TX.
In the past, various church publications have written articles on priorities for General Conference. Despite previous efforts, I recently found that my priorities for the 2012 General Conference have remained the same over the intervening years (possibly because my own priorities seem to differ so greatly from those of United Methodist leadership).
At the risk of being considered redundant, I offer these again for the consideration of General Conference delegates and observers alike.
1. We need to be Wesleyan and seek to “go on to perfection in love” as a denomination, not just as individuals. The Plan of Organization and Rules of Order once included a commitment to perfection. The truth of the matter is that, like individuals, our systems also need to go on to perfection in love so that things like patience, respect, understanding, mercy, kindness, etc. can be better manifest to all. The church should show the love of God and neighbor in all its life and activities. That includes how General Conference operates!
2. Bishops and Cabinets must have as their highest priority the success of the pastors and churches to whom they assign them. When those leaders are so busy doing other things and presume that the pastors should be able to handle everything on their own, Cabinets are violating the covenant of the clergy in order to seek their justification in having power, in doing program, or in having the best salary package. When the Cabinet matches a church and pastor, they must take responsibility to do all they can help them both be effective. Nothing else is close to as important.
3. We must be clear that the United Methodist Church holds two conflicting sets of church laws and two sets of Biblical support on the issue of homosexuality. Thus, both sides are right and there can be no peace, only conflict. If we cannot find a consensus, then we must either agree to disagree or continue competing against each other. . . .” Open hearts?”
4. The complaint management system called Fair Process is being disregarded in favor of allowing Cabinets to fire pastors at will. Cabinets sometimes forget that we operate under the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
5. When Bishops and superintendents get out of line and disregard church law when it suits them, no one has successfully brought them to accountability under the current complaint procedures. Being accountable only to themselves has not worked.
6. We must recognize that the greater danger to our unity is not disagreement over theology or Bible interpretation but is the gathering of all authority at whatever cost into the hands of the denomination's leadership. The more concentrated the power, the more easily it is corrupted. Does this perspective apply to the Call to Action and other efforts for the 2012 General Conference to centralize authority for the denomination?
7. We must do as John Wesley, Jesus, and Paul did, look at the fruits more than at the beliefs of one another. Are those fruits feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, . . .? Are those fruits patience, kindness, forgiveness, . . .? In every local church I have ever served are Christians who live like this all the time and they never allow anyone to call them saints. When the denomination isn’t hard at work doing these things, we are letting down the strength of our church, those saints.
The Rev. Jerry Eckert is a retired clergy member of the Louisiana Conference and a co-founder of Associates in Advocacy, a volunteer organization that helps represent United Methodist Clergy through the fair process action of personnel review.