United Mess of a Church

I am continually impressed by the ability of the United Methodist Church to make a mess of things. While there are many local churches doing great things (I am in one of them), the ability of the denominational leadership to continually undermine trust and confidence in them is astounding. This time they have managed to (again) not do what they have said and release the the commission’s report on or about July 8. From the linked article here we learned that delays in negotiation made this date unworkable. Of course we learned this on July 9th, the day that the Commission on the General Conference released the statement. “Initially, it was expected that the report would be translated and ready for release by July 8, 2018 — 230 days before the opening of the Special Session, which is the deadline for the submission of petitions. However, delays in negotiating a contract for translation made that date unworkable.” This has occurred in an attempt to save money, which is admirable, but at this point the attempt to save money is outweighed by the continual stress of uncertainty that surrounds the report combined with the force feeding of the local option that the Council of Bishops is doing across the denomination.
The fact that we would not see the report on, or about, July 8th has been known by those handling the translation process for some time, though how long they have known is questionable. Knowing the situation that the church finds itself in, it seems only reasonable that a statement before the 9th would have been beneficial and responsible. Instead of that, we get a statement that only confirmed what many had already thought, namely that the report will be delayed as long as possible to limit the ability of those who might be opposed to it to make their case. I can not say for certain that this is the motivation, and I sincerely hope that it is not the motivation, but we must deal with the reality that optics matter. Whatever the truth actually is, it certainly looks as if we are in the midst of a common political strategy with controversial legislation of trying to push it through at the deadlines without the time to examine, digest, and debate it. While this is mitigated somewhat by the way our legislation is put out in advance, it does limit the time that it is available for the plebeians like me to look at.
It has also become common in this day and age for groups, including agencies of the church such as the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, to post their proposed legislation online far in advance of General Conferences, and far in advance of translation into the official languages of the church. Bishop Thomas Bickerton, ex-officio member of the Commission on the General Conference representing the Council of Bishops said the following: “The Commission on the General Conference and the Council of Bishops join the whole church in the desire that everyone within the United Methodist family have access to these materials simultaneously and in adequate time for us to prepare ourselves for the decisions that will be considered at the special called session.” Rarely have I read such a tone deaf statement. The whole church does not desire to continue waiting. When I read statements like this, I tend to liken them to the force feeding of the local option. Here is what you are supposed to think, now get to thinking it. The whole church does not desire to wait. It has been decided that we need to wait, which is strange given how prevalent website releases have been. It just continues to feed the concerns and anxiety that many have. At this point it seems more the politics of fear trying to hype the crisis and then have the plan presented like Superman come to save the day when in reality the plan is not even on the level of Mighty Mouse, let alone Superman. Responsible leadership does not lead in secret, it leads with transparency. We have leadership, but it is not responsible and certainly is not being terribly effective.
Also, the Council of Bishop’s have amended the call to a special General Conference in 2019, presumably to be in line with the Judicial Council Decision that allowed other petitions as well as affirming that the Bishops can not recommend legislation. That is what many of us are hoping anyway. The distrust is so great that there is real concern that this is another attempt to limit what is brought forward to the General Conference to only petitions from commission of a way forward members. I do not believe that is the purpose of amending the call, but I will confess that my initial thought was “not again, I thought we settled this”. After taking a night to sleep on it, I believe that the Council of Bishops is simply doing this to be in line with the Judicial Council.
So, we come to the end of this and nothing has really changed. The situation is much as it was at the General Conference of 2016. There will be a plan someday. We will see it someday. At the end of all of this all that can really be said is that we still don’t know. For all the time, money, words, and anxiety that has been around since the end of General Conference in 2016, we are still in the exact same place. We just don’t know.

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.