Someone whom I think highly of asked me my thoughts on this proposal. Initially I had planned to write a short summation of thoughts after reading it, but the proposal itself is rather detailed and, as my opinion was asked, I felt as if it should be equally detailed out of respect for the questioner. I suspect this will end up broken up over several posting over several days. For that I am sorry. I will quote the relevant sections I am commenting on for simplicity and the entire proposal can be found here.
Regarding section labeled “A – Legislation and Concept Proposal” pages 1-2.
“3 – The Task Force shall consist of a total of 15 members, named by the Connectional Table, and convened as an independent body before December 1, 2016. The 15 member Task Force shall include one member from each jurisdiction and central conference who are not already members of the Connectional Table; one bishop identified by the Council of Bishops; one member of the Connectional Table; and one member of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters. The Connectional Table shall identify one of these 15 individuals to chair the task force. The Connectional Table may name up to four additional members with voice but not vote: a general secretary of a general agency; a member of the NEJ Global Structure Task Force, a person with skills in writing the needed legislation, and a person with marketing skills. Although the task force may need some face-to-face meetings, it will meet primarily via electronic means.”
First I commend those who did the work to put this together. It is thought out well and presented well. I applaud their attempts to have this group meet primarily by electronic means in an effort to save money. In this day and age a lot f our business can and should be done this way. It pleases me to see it suggested here. It also pleases me to see that there is a representation that is more indicative of our membership in the group called for. This is a nice departure from our normal general boards which are not often representative of the various cultures and theologies that are represented in the UMC. I also appreciate the attempt to keep the group fairly small so that something can actually be done.
I have a lot of concerns with any decisions made by the connectional table at this stage. While the group called for here is diverse, the group that makes up the connectional table is not. The connectional table has also demonstrated that it is subject to influence from the left leaning caucus groups, has submitted it’s own plan for the GC this year, so they have an agenda (don’t we all to some degree?) and has not followed through on what they promised to do before submitting their suggestion to the GC already. Because of those things, I am leary of their ability to remain neutral and to select a group of individuals that represent the diversity of both culture and theology that are represented in the UMC. In the recent three session discussion that the connectional table sponsored, the showed that they were unwilling to hold all three before making a proposal, allowed themselves to be hijacked by a left leaning caucus group, and then made their proposal, after only one session, that aligned with said caucus groups goals. It is not simply that I do not trust them to be unbiased, it is that they have shown themselves to be biased by the actions they have chosen to take. I am also concerned with who eventually ends up on this panel. Is there room for representation by laity or are we talking about those in higher positions of authority only? I would be concerned with anything that decides, or potentially decides, the future of the church that does not have a significant voice from the laity. It is probably because I am a member of the laity that I say this.
“4 — The Task Force shall seek feedback from the Connectional Table, the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, the Council of Bishops, and The United Methodist Church and shall provide annual updates. The Task Force shall also develop and implement a plan to actively inform the denomination about its progress and the legislation needed to implement the Concept Proposal adopted by General Conference 2016. The Connectional Table shall review the final legislation and submit it directly to the 2020 General Conference.”
MY above concerns about the connectional table aply here as well. They have chosen to make their goal known. I can not imagine any feedback that would be contrary to their goal, nor can I imagine that the feedback would not somehow end up translating into pressure. I am unsure how there could be feedback from the UMC in general. I like the idea a lot, but in practical terms, it is unrealistic. Even if only 10% of UMC members world wide were to provide feedback, we are about 12.8 million members. That is a lot of feedback to get through. It seems more as if in practicality a good portion of that would be ignored or unread due to a lack of time alone. Some sort of process would need to be initiated that could shrink the feedback number, or potential number.
“5 – $300,000 shall be added to the Connectional Table’s 2016-2020 quadrennial budget specifically for the work of this task force.”
This concerns me also as the reality is that we are all beholden to the ones who pay us. I understand that this money is to be earmarked for a specific purpose, but I also think that we have all seen earmarked money go to purposes not originally intended. If this should happen, the budget should be in the control of the panel to allow them as much independence as possible.
I am quickly nearing the word count that I try to stick to in a blog post, so I will end here with this for now. I will try to have two or three blogs each day on this proposal until the end is reached. My apologies to the one who asked the question as this is probably more than he bargained for when asking my opinion, but I have never claimed to not be long winded. Hopefully this provides some food for thought.