Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
September 22nd, 2014 by Joel Watts

Should we close the #UMC General Conference in 2016?

Update – Jeremy Smith has failed to read this post, any of the conversations on Facebook, or to interact with me about it. Rather, he has placed us in the same boat as rapists, finding no issue with use race and rape (something he knows nothing about) to make political points. Jeremy should be ashamed of himself.

Dr. David Watson has suggested we close, even in part, the General Conference. I like this idea, not in the least because of the hijacking both the left and the right attempt to do. Years ago, groups on the right threatened to disrupt. Currently groups on the left make mad dashes to the floor during the Eucharist among other actions.

In 2012, this happened.

General Conference should be like this:

Not like this,

got-s4e7-mountain

In respect to Paragraph 722, where openness is commended, but not always required at General Conference, we should have closed sessions (not the entire meeting) to allow for discussion of the pressing issues. Remember, GC is the only official voice of the UMC. It is here rather than AC’s that the best and worst displays of holy conferencing takes place. As one who believes in government transparency, I only say this with timidness of spirit.

So, how do we do it?

1.) The body of delegates could vote to close the session.

2.) The presiding officer could order it, even if they have to announce it first.

Personally, option 1 is best because it contains an air of democracy in it. We close it not for financial issues, but for polity. We close it so that delegates can speak honestly without the glare of cameras and the threats of caucus groups. I suspect the delegates would then become suddenly more moderate (not all). Moderate, if you’ve been following along at home, is not a bad thing and may advance us to a better position.

If we are going to get past this impasse, we will need time for holy (i.e., separating) conferencing where we listen to each other without the hectic voices demanding we listen to them. If we believe in the Spirit and its guidance of the United Methodist Church, then it is safe to believe the delegates to the General Conference are likewise chosen by the Spirit. Following this, we must assume that if we are able to participate in holy conferencing, we may find the Spirit’s voice. Neither side has faith in this (process).

Think of it this way. When Jesus commanded us to pray, how did he say go and do it? We are to do it privately. We do not need to do it for show. These caucus groups are for show. Let us leave them and commune with our God as many have done before us.

 

 

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

9 Responses to “Should we close the #UMC General Conference in 2016?”
  1. Janet Flanagan says

    Having experienced General Conference on several occasions, I hate to say that there may be wisdom in the idea of closing parts of the session in order to do the work of the church in order to make decisions in a less volatile or emotional setting. In the meantime I would hope that the committees planning the conference may find some creative alternative solutions.

  2. creedpogue says

    After some comments, Dr. Watson clarified that what he was really talking about is not allowing demonstrations to take over the proceedings. The layout in Tampa could not have been easier for demonstrators to take over the meeting if it had been designed by Reconciling Ministries Network. Oh right, it WAS designed by a board member of RMN!

    “Secret” or “closed” sessions aren’t going to accomplish anything because you still have to vote (and debate some more) in the open. Adding the specter of “That isn’t what you said earlier behind closed doors!” arguments isn’t going to do anything to raise the level of debate.

    After the experience of 2012, I wonder whether “holy conferencing” as we practice it is going to be useful. Too many expected that they would be allowed to say why they think the Discipline should be changed and were then “shocked” when others disagreed with them. The people who tell us to be tolerant were not tolerant of people who disagreed with THEM.

    No bishop should be allowed to preside by the Council of Bishops who isn’t willing to call the police and have demonstrators who try to seize the proceedings arrested and thrown in jail for the night. If the layout of the Portland Convention Center is similar to the layout in Tampa, then it needs to be changed IMMEDIATELY.

    You are pretending that there is a viable “middle way” on issues like same-sex marriage ceremonies and gay ordination in a connectional polity. Either they are allowed or they are not. Or, we no longer have a connectional polity and the Western Jurisdiction figures out how to pay for their own bishops.

    • Creed, your comment about the arrests is a bit fascist.

      • creedpogue says

        just for idle curiosity, how do you believe that demonstrators who take over the floor of General Conference should be dealt with? In 2000, they were arrested. In 2012, Bishop Wenner gave them everything they wanted. Yet, they went on to take over the Connectional Table. The enabling approach is not working.

  3. Closed does not mean secret, at least on my reading. I just mean closing the floor to all but delegates, bishops, and essential personnel. Proceedings would still be visible via live stream. This is the exact same thing WNCC’s Annual Conference (which is larger than GC) does when voting for GC delegates and should not be controversial.

  4. max facto says

    Attention UMC leaders. The church is crumbling and you are behaving like 4th grade politicians. You are confusing everyone around you. Years of apathy have left the church is shambles. Please put on you big kid pants and lead. How can you love people if you cannot accept them? How can you reach people if you are not willing to embrace them? An entire denomination is looking at you is disbelief, disappointment, doubt.

  5. I find this rather amusing. 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, anyone? Cops beat the crap out of protestors, who were tired of the Vietnam war. MLK and Bobbie Kennedy assassinated in the same year. Hubert H Humphrey loses election. George Wallace takes much of the vote in the south, because of racist Southern Democrats. Richard Nixon wins, to continue escalating the war by bombing Cambodia.
    I suggest to UMC’ers to offer a symbolic Twinkie and Hostess Cupcake open house to all protestors at the Convention, and be thankfully that this is not 1968. You don’t influence anyone by arresting them. Have a Twinkie communion. Maybe you’ll get new members.

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