I covenanted with a few folks that while I was at General Conference I would only blog about where I saw God and where our prayers ought to be centered - and I think I kept my word. But having a few weeks to digest it all, here are some thoughts, in no particular order of importance or significance.
- As other bloggers have noted, we don't trust each other. When Plan UMC was presented, one delegate was so distrustful of its birthing that she asked for a "line up" so we could see their racial and gender makeup. I think that's when I knew we had quit looking at people's hearts and were looking at their outside appearance instead. The book was being judged by its cover.
- We don't trust bishops - and want to give them less empowerment than more. Yet when you look at what effective leadership has to be empowered to do, and what little power our bishops already have, they're doomed to fail. If we really don't want these folks to lead, we might do well to think about not having bishops and save a whole lot of money, get rid of jurisdictions, etc.
- Is this repairable, or do we need a "restart?" You can restart a local church... maybe we need to restart United Methodism! This was an option that Lyle Schaller posited in The Ice Cube Is Melting. At the next General Conference, on the first day: name the fact that we are more like an association of churches rather than a Connection, that some differences are irreconcilable, and pray and mourn over that. On the second day, vote on a proposal to dissolve the United Methodist Church that morning. If that passes, then create a new denominational structure. No restrictive rules. Keep the Articles of Religion. Avoid the firewalls that currently keep a 1970's structure in place (that wasn't working anyway) for a 21st century church. If that were to fail, my suggestion would be to adopt a "Plan I"... since it seems that we may be destined to do whatever "I" wants anyway.
- Some liberals/progressives are as bigoted as some conservatives.
- I officiated college and high school sports for some 28 years, but never witnessed as much venom as I saw on Twitter during GC2012, although #bishopoughstie was amusing. If young people and others who Twittered (Tweeted?) are accusing some of us older folks as intolerant, I wonder how they label themselves.
- We are dysfunctional beyond description. I don't know if we are receptive to intervention from the Holy Spirit or not.
- We are claiming to be a global church, but I think it has a serious American problem - we are narcissistic, self-absorbed, and arrogant. A friend of mine who isn't UM told me when he watched the streaming feed, it looked like C-SPAN.
On paper, I think we are the best Church in Christianity, and the method of Methodism is ingenious. But we have lost our method... and I think we lost it long before I was even born.
Most days I am hopeful, and I'm not tempted to despair just yet. But today, I am very sad.
Forgive us, Lord; we don't know what we're doing. But we're willing to listen. I hope.