Systemic Ambivalence



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a challenge of the right kind...

Dan you are right on. Now how do we do/become the church (movement) of this vision?

Jim Frisbie more than 6 years ago

Do We Know What We Have?

I did not grow up in the Methodist Church, so I am a newbie at discovering its structure. I do know that my local jurisdiction serves my congregation well, and the annual conference seems to be a big energy generator. Resources have been lavished on us, for which I am grateful, and which makes our little congregation bigger.

Linda Yoder more than 6 years ago

Systematic ambivalence

Dan, when you're on, you're on, THANKS as always. But a question old friend: I have a saxophone, it is a system designed to deliver good music, and perfectly capable of doing so. It works fine; except I am the other half of the system, and I can't play the saxophone (yet!)
What if our objective institutional system is fine, and we just don't know how to play it, much less play it well?
BTW, I'm using the shiny thing this very Sunday for the sermon. Ciao, gmk

Gary Keene more than 6 years ago

Point Well Taken

Since I struggle to master musical instruments, this makes sense.

Linda Yoder more than 6 years ago


If I understand the analogy offered here; Gary is comparing playing the sax to create music, and using the existing system of the UM Church to create disciples of Jesus Christ that are in partnership with Christ to transform the world. To an extent I would agree with what I think is Gary’s point in his comment on Dan’s article. There may indeed be no tragic flaws in the United Methodist system and our problems may be due in large measure to flawed individuals who’s leadership among other things either ignores our stated mission, or who are ill-equipped to lead. I actually think there is ample evidence for that case. In other words, don’t blame the saxophone when the the person playing doesn’t make music with it.

But the analogy breaks down in a couple of places for me. The first place it breaks down is that if the system were healthy it would incorporate effective, grace-filled processes of accountability that would either motivate and train ineffective leaders, or replace them. I have been in ministry in our system for 36 years, and as far as I can tell that hasn’t been the case.

One could correctly argue that there are a lot of leaders and congregations in our denomination that have, in the name of Christ, been transformative communities of faith. How could that happen in a broken system? I would argue that Cannonball Adderley could make even a busted saxophone sound good.

The second place the analogy breaks down for me is that there is a distinct difference between the mechanical system of a saxophone and the human playing it. With the system of the United Methodist Church though, there is no difference between the system and the ones operating it. The system is us. And our system isn’t mechanical, but an organic, human one. Organic systems by their very nature must be flexible and adaptable to their environment; their very existence depends on that. I’m not alone in thinking that for too long, we have seen ourselves in a mechanical way. Our denominational system is the result of a 19th century, mechanical, Modern world view that was very effective at one time, but is causing us in our time to resists and even distrust prophetic voices in our midst. That is a fatal flaw for an organic system that needs to make adaptive changes in order to thrive. It is also a fatal flaw for an organization that wants to listen for the Spirit of God that in my understanding is continually working in our midst to make all things new.

I know a jazz musician in Portland, Oregon that used a file to adapt the valve holes in his sax to produce a sound that he wanted. It was a unique and beautiful sound. The sound he was getting wasn't the sound he wanted, so he did something about it.

I think Dan’s words are prophetic. We need to ‘Rethink Church’ not only at the local level, but as a denomination, in a systemic way. If we aren’t happy with the results we’re getting, we need to do something to change the instrument.

Dr. Leland E. Hunef

Leland Hunefeld more than 6 years ago