Thursday, May 04, 2006
Even Church Politics Needs a Soul
I'm borrowing from a Jim Wallis quote from several years ago; he was referring to American politics, and how Democrats and Republicans alike sold out years ago. He said, "Politics needs a soul." I'm also reminded of a Ronald Reagan quote: "Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
Church politics in the UMC have gotten to this point, I believe. It's become much less about the God and people we serve, and instead is about who has the power. The recent skirmish between the Judicial Council and the Council on Bishops is one of power; in short, the Bishops are upset about their power being co-opted; however, it's quite possible that the Judicial Council might be guilty of judicial activism and thus abusing its power. Two wrongs don't make a might.
At the crux of this, at least in my opinion, is this: how in the heck could responsible leadership have let the situation that led to Decision 1032 (click here for a synopsis) get there in the first place? To the average observer, at least one of two things is apparent: (1) some pastors, D.S.'s and bishops need to take a course in conflict resolution, or (2) this was a "test the waters" case regarding homosexuality in the Church. In situation (1), at best this is a case of poor pastoral leadership. In (2), it is a very dishonest way of advocating change in an institution such as the Church, and possibly an abuse of power by the episcopal office and the Judicial Council.
What side am I on? I can't subscribe to the Confessing Movement or Good News... who have been as guilty of political posturing as MFSA or the Reconciling Movement. As far as being Wesleyan, I'd say both sides are at best "selectively Wesleyan." Both sides use the term Wesleyan much like Democrats like the word "progressive" and Republicans like the word "conservative" - it sounds good to their constituents, but it's at best giving lip service to those who want to hear it. So... while I'd like to say I'm on the Lord's side, I realize how many people, caucuses, and factions claim the same thing. So I guess I'd have more luck telling you whose side I'm not on. Maybe I fit in the Messy Methodist Middle (hey, life's messy, isn't it?).
What is truly disturbing is that the Council of Bishops and the Judicial Council - official church entities - have now become polar entities. And even within the Judicial Council there is polarization, as their latest ruling on reconsideration of Decision 1032 was a 5-4 split decision.
Are we proud that the United Methodist Church is mirroring our U.S. government in ways financial AND political? Does that mean that we have finally "arrived?" I pray not.
I'm well aware that politics is the art of the possible, even church politics. But a true church politic must model Jesus in our governance and administration. If we model American individualism and consumerism, we've lost our center and soul.
Church politics needs a soul.