Observations and a Few Random Thoughts


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.

Pax,
Sky+

Comments

hnb said…
You make some great observations. When did we become so skeptical of peoples' motives?

I want equality, but I also want passionate people in roles. I don't want to be a token, but I recognize my life has been totally different than those who have been abused by inequality so it's easy for me to say.

I dislike the thought of denomination restart because of irreconcilable differences, but I haven't seen an alternative that is acceptable to all parties.

I was disappointed in some of the language used when referring to the other "side" on issues. I was disappointed to see someone comparing The UMC to Westboro Baptist.

I was active on Twitter and I hope my comments were not ugly. Old white men were bashed for being old white men. SEJ was bashed because we're southern and obviously agree with homosexuality stance and along with Africa, why the language is not changed. It was ugly.

The "I" church is right for some, but I'm wondering if they're just the loudest and not the majority. Seems like there are still moderates out there and isn't that kind of what we're known for? Are we the only moderate denom left?
hnb said…
You make some great observations. When did we become so skeptical of peoples' motives?

I want equality, but I also want passionate people in roles. I don't want to be a token, but I recognize my life has been totally different than those who have been abused by inequality so it's easy for me to say.

I dislike the thought of denomination restart because of irreconcilable differences, but I haven't seen an alternative that is acceptable to all parties.

I was disappointed in some of the language used when referring to the other "side" on issues. I was disappointed to see someone comparing The UMC to Westboro Baptist.

I was active on Twitter and I hope my comments were not ugly. Old white men were bashed for being old white men. SEJ was bashed because we're southern and obviously agree with homosexuality stance and along with Africa, why the language is not changed. It was ugly.

The "I" church is right for some, but I'm wondering if they're just the loudest and not the majority. Seems like there are still moderates out there and isn't that kind of what we're known for? Are we the only moderate denom left?
Ben G said…
Great post! I might even add at the end, "Forgive us, Lord, we know what we're doing and we need an intervention."
Betsy said…
Thank you for your honesty. I am a 58 year old life long Methodist; it is part of who I am. Over the last 3 years I have done a lot of reading and monitoring as to the state of the UMC past and present. I very much agree with you that we lost the method before I was born. In his book, "On the Threshold of Grace: Methodist Fundamentals", Donald Haynes hit the nail on the head for me with three observations:

1. "In…'Experimental Divinity', [former Duke Divinity School Dean] Robert Cushman documented that early Methodism was clear about its doctrine. He called this consensus of faith “consensus fidelium.” He wisely proclaims that this consensus “embodies the ‘sufficient reason’ for a church’s being” and prophesies that “the dimming, or decline, or erosion of that consensus is a negative prognosis for the survival of that church, particularly in modern secular society.” He questions whether in the absence of consensus fidelium, any “Christian community can attain a manifest identity and self-understanding or convey a recognizable or enduring message, or, indeed to survive at all”.

2."Essential in the Methodist message is the inseparability of doctrine and personal discipline. Saying “Jesus has forgiven me of my sins” is just the first step in the way of salvation, not the fait accompli. Being saved must be followed by growth in grace, which expresses itself in the ethics of Matthew 25 and the discipline of Ephesians 6. Wesley insisted on doing no harm, avoiding evil of every kind, doing good of every possible sort, and attending all the ordinances’ of the Church….we are recovering this imperative to “walk the walk”.

3. While the church is God’s mission to the world, we err to see it as an end itself. The sad mistake of the 20th century was to develop a sophisticated “church-ianity that was not synonymous with “Christianity”. We developed “churchmanship (male and female) rather than discipleship. We assimilated new members by placing them on finance committees and program teams when they were babes in Christ looking for soul nourishment.

But he concluded with this:
"Methodism has often strayed from what Wesley called the “scriptural way of salvation.” But whenever we have recovered our voice, enjoyed the quiet confidence of saving grace, and folded assurance into discipleship, Methodism has had a vital message, seen lives changed, and greatly influenced societal culture. Therefore, we must look anew at who we are, what we believe, and what God is calling us to be and do. If so, in the words of William Sangster of London—“Methodism can be born again.”"

Methodism has an absolute wonderful message to share; we just have to relearn it.
TN Rambler said…
Skye, a few random thoughts of my own, if you don't mind. I appreciate the tone of your blogging at General Conference and I agree with your disappointment at the venom coming from some of the folks on twitter. Of course, I didn't get to watch much of the plenary feed (i have pastoral duties to attend to) and I did enjoy the worship services.

The lack of trust was painfully evident. I could see the deadlock coming in so many areas when I watched the maneuvering during the report of the Rules Committee. I was also at a loss for words at the thought that we almost voted down the idea that nothing can separate us from the love of God.

I was disappointed that the language acknowledging our differences of opinion on homosexuality offered by Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter was voted down. I'll admit that I don't know where I stand on gay clergy, but I do know that I personally don't care for the current language. I do not think that a split would solve anything, but if one were to come, I don't know where I would go. As a Licensed Local Pastor who self identifies as a liberal evangelical, I realize that my calling would probably not be recognized in the "liberal" group and I wonder how comfortable I might be in the more conservative group. Either way, I will continue to share the love of God with everyone, as long as I am allowed... and even if I'm not.

Perhaps the dissolution of Plan UMC will open some doors for a more collaborative effort by 2016. Is it possible that the COB, CT and the various interest groups can begin working NOW on a plan for restructure that can be referred to the Judicial Council well in advance of GC to clear up any constitutional questions?

I thank you for your service. I can't imagine the frustration and disappointment. But, I can imagine that God is not through with the UMC. Now, if the COB will call the whole church to prayer for revival, then maybe we can find a way forward... together.
Old School said…
I have been a UM elder for over a dozen years now. After this General Conference I am seriously questioning the wisdom of joining The UMC in the first place. This church is dysfunctional. I mean, crazy dysfunctional, like one of those holiday dinners with my ex-wife's extended family when somebody calls the police to break the whole thing up.

While I don't necessarily disagree in principle with the elimination of the guaranteed appointment, the way that legislation was passed -- consent calender, no debate -- seems so sneaky and underhanded that elders have good reason not to trust this system. On the other hand, our debate about homosexuality should be an embarrassment to every mentally healthy Methodist regardless of what side of the issue they fall on. When I turn on the coverage on NPR and hear that a translator refuses to translate because a delegate has included blatant descriptions of bestiality in his defense of the existing Disciplinary language I can only conclude that they put the wrong item on the consent calender.

We really need to disband any structure beyond the local congregations and start from scratch. Calling GC 2012 "Holy Conferencing" is like calling a naked jacuzzi party "Baptism". No, we are not Westboro Baptist. Instead, we are Cristendom's answer to The Jerry Springer Show.
brosteve said…
You hit "the nails" right on their heads Sky.