Everyone at, or following the General Conference felt like the image at some point, and perhaps all points, during the debate around rule 44. There will of course be accusations that the traditionalists were trying to kill it by parliamentary procedure and that the liberals were trying to use it to stack the deck on human sexuality as well as others I imagine. At the end of the vote, most traditionalists are pleased with it and most progressives are angry with it. That is simply the way of things. No rule, rather no proposed rule as this no longer exists will have the legacy of rule 44 I suspect. That is bad for us.
I am admittedly a bit cynical, so keep that in mind while reading this. The progressives get to have a boogie man. It has already begun. Those traditionalists won’t listen to us or talk to us. They won’t hear our stories. They are afraid of doing something new. They just want to silence people. They just want to talk at people and not to people. If only those darn traditionalists would hear us, they would change, the minority voice would be heard, etc. etc. etc.
The right will rejoice as this process that they found objectionable because of how it put the power in the hands of a few instead of in the hands of the people. They will rejoice because the rules are passed and this is finally done for the time. The work of the church can be gotten to and it is in the past, soon to be forgotten. The attempted amendments that were obviously designed to limit the usage of rule 44 to one particular issue rather than the possibility of a broad scope of issues, were wisely not incorporated by the rules committee. It is done, time to go on.
I do believe that rule 44 was brought forward with the best of intentions. No one wanted a repeat of 2012 or a repeat of the contentiousness that has infected us. I believe that the legislation brought forward by people is for the same purpose. I have no problem believing that we are all trying to do what it best for the church. Obviously I disagree with some and agree with other as do we all. With rule 44 the biggest thing was the attempt to make sure that we all have a voice. It was an attempt to eliminate the winner/loser mentality that surrounds some legislation and move toward a more unified approach to legislation. The problem is that there is a winner and a loser when the direction of the church is at stake. when we manage to follow the Holy Spirit, the winner is God and when we don’t the winner is the other guy. No rule or legislation can solve that reality. While it is with the best of intentions that it came forward, no rule and no legislation is going to heal what is actually a infection of the soul.
We all want to have a voice, and that is the precise problem. We want our stories heard, our thoughts considered and our way to be had. All of that is fairly normal I think and in and of itself is not the problem. The problem is that we want our voice to be louder than the church. If you love the UMC, then you must love her for one of the most beautiful statements she has. There is one voice for the United Methodist Church and it is the General Conference. If you agree with the General Conference, then that is much easier to swallow. If you do not, then it is difficult to handle and the temptation to raise your voice above her is great. The reality is that the UMC has one voice and it is the General Conference, but for that voice to be heard we must silence our own.
I want to be clear. Surrendering our voice does not mean that we do not have opinions that are contrary to the church. In deed we will. It does not mean that we are mindless automatons, indeed we are not nor should we be. It does not mean that we do not try to change the things we believe need changed, indeed we should and there is a way for us to. It does mean that we do not make our own voice louder by serving a separate Eucharist as protest. It does mean that we do not have fake ordinations of individuals that would otherwise be disqualified from the church. It does mean that we do not perform, nor allow to be performed, wedding ceremonies that the church forbids. It does mean that we do not call for punishment without the possibility of mercy. It does mean that we do not threaten to take our toys and go home. It does mean that we do not withhold the gifts to the church, which belong to God to begin with, from the church to support her mission. It does not mean that we agree, but it does mean that we have faith that there is a plan that has been set in motion by God, through Christ, by the moving of the Holy spirit, that will see the Bride eventually be in all her deserved glory. It does mean that we trust when we disagree. It means that we submit when all we want to do is fight against. Whenever we engage in these activities, we are screaming above the church instead of letting her speak.
As the General Conference goes on, please continue to pray. I know that many who are reading this do and many who will never see it are. Pray that the will of God is done. Pray that the Spirit is heard. Pray for the delegates and the staff and all involved. Pray as many have already asked you to. Consider however praying for for I am praying for. Consider praying that we all lose our voices so that the church may finally have one again. Amen.