More on Rule 44 and UMC Paternalism

proposed new logo for umcAs you know, I think Rule 44 is a control measure and is theologically bankrupt. While in some comments, it is called “Christian Conferencing” (it is neither Christian, nor conferencing), in other comments it is only a tool. This doublespeak is inherent in the system, I guess, but shameful. Further, the suggestion from the Commission members that it is meant to guide the conversation on one topic — a suggestion not formalized or presented in the DCA — is tragic. Why hide the intentions of the proposal?

What really bothers me, however, is the way it is defended. Make no mistake about it: it is legislation fostered upon the UMC by yet another commission (granted, a commission important to the General Conference). When it was released, a lot of people began to speak against it, only to be met with charges from the Chair of the Commission.

As chair of the Commission on General Conference, I have a couple of clarifications. First, while CT, Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters and the Commission have all worked on the idea of Christian Conferencing, Rule 44 is a product of the Commission and its Rules Committee. It isn’t “also known as Christian Conferencing” – it is just an additional rule which would allow us to work on legislation in a different way. Christian Conferencing is the spirit that pervades all of our work — worship, fellowship, legislation, etc. We really want to separate people’s idea that Christian Conferencing is when we sit and talk to each other only.

Also, although the Commission intends to request the use of Rule 44 for LGBTQ legislation at this General Conference, the rule is separate from any legislative topic. First we have to approve the rule, and THEN we request its use. This is important because if the conference ties it too closely with any legislative topic, then the rule might be defeated. This would be a shame.

You are right that we have objections from both sides – this rule seems to threaten those who have the most entrenched positions. – Judi Kenaston.

I’m reproduced the entire comment, but I want to focus on the last line. Rather than answering the objections, and there are many, Ms Kenaston (a member of my conference and a staff member) instead attacks those raising the objections. My guess is, is that she simply thought everyone below her would roll over and accept whatever the GC put out. Further, there seems to be an unwritten agreement among the Commission members as to when Rule 44 is to be used.

Because that’s how it is supposed to be, right?

Rather than anything resembling holy conferencing of the Wesleyan variety, what we are stuck with once more is an attempt by authorities to tell everyone else how they act and feel — and if they step out of line, they will be condemned. Rather than bring in Wesleyan scholars, we have turned to the entrenched bureaucrats. What exactly is the fear among those “in charge?”

Rule 44 is nothing short of (white) paternalism,

the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates’ supposed best interest.

We see that in the way it is defended and attempted to be passed off as a “form” of conferencing equal to Wesleyan holy conferencing. No, we are not beholden to a certain practice of conferencing, not by anything so clearly stated, but given that we supposedly are Wesleyan — and we are supposedly biblical — then we could at least pretend to use those two resources to form our conferencing techniques. Rather, what we have with Rule 44, with its forced apologies and forced acceptance of these “apologies,” is something that is psychologically damaging to the participants.

Dr Kevin Watson — a scholar of Wesley and author of several books, notably one on actual conferencing — has further (part 1) thoughts (part 2). Dr. David Watson, the Academic Dean of United Theological Seminary, author of several books on Wesleyan theology, has also stated his case. Via Media has a post as well.

I would urge delegates to General Conference to vote down the DCA.

Be sure to read Chris Ritter’s post (x2) on it as well as watch the video below:


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7 Replies to “More on Rule 44 and UMC Paternalism”

  1. Thank you for your post, Joel. I agree with you that Rule 44 is not a healthy way to address the most controversial issue the church faces.

    I would, however, like to note that the Commission in its public statements from the beginning did link the Rule 44 process to the issue of homosexuality. They indicated that, while the Rule was a separate suggested process that could be used on any issue, they intended to recommend it be used for homosexuality at GC2016. That is borne out in the ADCA, where the conference secretary and petitions secretary have marked all the petitions that would be pulled out to be used in the Rule 44 process, if it is adopted. (They missed a few, however.)

    So it is not exactly true to say that they hid the intentions of the proposal. Other than that, I am in agreement with you.

    1. I’m disappointed that you have decided to vote down Rule 44 (simply an alternative process to Robert’s Rules of Order at the UMC General Conference in Portland). Your opinions are based on inadequate information. Rule 44 is merely a prayerful, respectful way to discern the will of God in Christian Community. It follows Wesley’s guidelines for Christian Conferencing. further, the process is used by faith communities around the world to guide important decisions. It involves prayer and deep listening. It also gives voice to every delegate at the gathering (not just those in a select legislative committee or those who get recognized on the floor). The General Conference will vote on whether to use this rule. If chosen, there will be a second vote to decide the topic to discern. Please pray (not prey) on the worthiness of discernment at General Conference.

        1. Sounds like a quick Surface only response. Of course it’s Wesleyan. It follows Wesley’s rules and practices basic vital piety: prayer, study of scripture, Christian conferencing, etc. we need an alternative to Robert’s rules which are definitely not Wesleyan….

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