Thursday, April 26, 2012
An Obese American Church
The United Methodist Church has become, like seemingly everything else, an overweight, super-sized monstrosity. It has become both victim and perpetrator of the falsehood that bigger-is-better. The bureaucracy and, even, the local churches have lost connection with a quickly changing America because we are fat and living in the past. Now, I know I will receive criticism for not calling it a 'global' church, but the United Methodist agencies physically have their offices in the United States and General Conference, in 2008 and since, has chosen to not take it's global nature seriously, so how can I? Also, I am located in the United Staes so I can only speak for the portion of the Church I see in action. I cannot speak for the European, African, or Asian Churches, for instance. So I will speak of the US UMC.
In most 'regions' of the US United Methodist Church, the largest amount of waste and disconnect in the church is our historical Annual Conference Systems, offices, and staffs, but that is a topic for another day. Today I want to address the challenges facing General Conference which is raging right this moment. For those of you who don't know, General Conference, in short, is a global legislative conference of the United Methodist Church which sets polity and direction of the church and it's many boards and agencies.
The most controversial proposals before that body this week (and next) are concerned with restructuring and 'streamlining' the church. The words I like to use is that the United Methodist Church must become more nimble if it is to begin responding to a new culture,a new way of life in the World, and being a global church, which is a necessity! Yet, groups, especially agency staff (surprise) and many of the young people of general conference seem to be concerned that there will not be fair representation if we shrink the structure. (I'm sure there are others, again, I can only attest to the tweets, blogs and voices I have seen and heard...)
At first, when a very small board was proposed, that might have been a serious concern, but now that the authors of the "Call To Action" have accepted the need for larger board(s), this is no longer a real concern, if you ask me. The concern is more likely for people who have been serving as board members, like me, or staff members, who fear that there will not be room for them in the new system. We have to put aside these worries.
I chose not to put my name in for a general board or agency during this next quadrennium. I have plenty to do trying to make my local church more vital. I suggest that others, including General Conference delegates do the same. We all need to show a willingness to 'give up our own seat' before we can talk authentically about the needs of the church and the good of this church that we all love.
And perhaps it is time to let go of a jurisdictional pool system that has given such limited leadership (and helped certain people hold on to positions for so long), but, again, that is another topic for another blog. Hey, Jurisdictional and Annual Conferences are coming. I have to save some topics for those weeks!
*top image found at: image found at: http://www.efr.org/workplace-classic/eap/providers