Photo courtesy of Inquistr.com
Ghostbusters 2God's Holy Spirit can provide inspiration from the most unlikely places, including something such as the comedy film "Ghostbusters II".
Sometimes God's inspiration shows up in the most unlikely places, such as in this rap by Doug E. Fresh that served as a theme song for the movie "Ghostbusters II":
Spirit! Some people hear it, some people fear it,
Spirit! Some people just won't go near it!
Sure as I'm me and you should know you're you,
The Spirit is the key to unlock the true you.
Looking beyond its obvious references to the comedy's plot, this ditty captures one of my biggest concerns about the many alternatives flying about for United Methodist governance: Where does the Holy Spirit operate in our system?
The seat of power where the Holy Spirit resides in a denomination is very important, though our conversations do not usually go into that arena of theology. When I was in seminary, we talked in terms of the central entity of the denomination being the annual conference. All of the church's structure was to help the annual conference serve the needs of local churches that could not be handled by local churches themselves, meaning everything from how our churches got their pastors to how we shared mission responsibilities.
The reality at that time was that the general church boards and agencies appeared to feel they were the true bearers of the Holy Spirit. This was shown in the ways that some of them operated with no accountability and were subject to some financial mismanagement.
Charging to the rescue was General Conference, picking the Council of Bishops to reign in the agencies by having them be chairpersons of the respective bodies and having a cluster of bishops serving as directors of each agency. Thus, the power shifted. The center of power devolved onto the Council of Bishops, whose members were in a position to direct and influence actions of the boards and agencies AND to direct the legislation coming to General Conference.
As in the pre-Reformation era when the Catholics openly talked of their bishops and archbishops bearing the Holy Spirit, ours actually do, even though we don't use that terminology to describe it. The Church begins to fail if one or both of the following happens:
- When we let any one segment of the Church be its sole power without checks and balances and some form of accountability; or
- When we are unwilling to recognize that the Holy Spirit moves as It will and may be surfacing someplace other than the power center.
How would everything that is coming before the 2012 General Conference change if attention were shifted from legislating win-lose scenarios to discerning where and how God's Holy Spirit is active, and then legislating to follow that guidance?
The Rev. Jerry Eckert of Port Charlotte, FL, is a retired elder in the Wisconsin Annual Conference and contact person for Associates in Advocacy,
UM Insight coordinator Cynthia Astle contributed to this essay.