General Conference Four Years Ago - Has Anything Changed?
I recently installed the "Time Hop" app on my iPhone. I thought it would be fun to see what I was doing this time last year or even four years ago. Mostly the feed has been full of pictures of Camden and our family. There has been a few pictures retreats, mission trips, and even a Black Keys concert. Looking back on what has been or has happened can be a lot of fun. Today's feed has pictures from 10 years ago when Allison and I went to Orlando, FL after we graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan, before and after shots from the time I re-sodded our backyard, and a Facebook post I made four years ago. Four years ago former UMC Bishop and professor at Duke Divinity Rev. Will Willimon said the UMC is the "most screwed up" or all the screwed up church systems.
Are we in the movie Groundhog Day? Don't get me wrong, I love Bill Murray, but waking up to the same s-storm everyday seems a little much. Four years ago we were in the midst of a dysfunctional United Methodist General Conference where not much was accomplished. Has much changed during the current General Conference?
Four years ago the Twitter-verse was alive with UMCGC hashtags, clergy & laity sharing their anxiety over how the votes for a way forward regarding human sexuality in the BoD failed to moved, former UMC Bishop left us with this gem:
Sunday evening’s “A Celebration of Ministry” fiasco was a metaphor for our nearly two weeks at church expense: four hours of belabored supplication by the General Commission on Status and Role of Women, five Ethnic National Plans, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, United Methodist Men, Girl Scouts, Africa University and a number of other agencies I can’t remember. A subtheme of that long night: even though we can’t cite specific fruit, please don’t force us to change or to expend less on ourselves. - Bishop Willimon on GC2012 and ‘church by committee’ in The United Methodist Reporter
I found this post via the Patheos Theoblogy blog by Tony Jones. Jones added to what Willimon wrote:
All bureaucracies are good at one thing: self-perpetuation. They may be good at other things, too, but the propagation of the gospel is not one of those. Bureaucracy is good at distributing drivers licenses. But bureaucracies are bad for the gospel.
I just hope that enough of you young UMC clergy have the temerity to stand up and walk out of that system. Trust me, what you’re putting up with is not worth the health insurance — you’re getting the raw end of that deal.
I respect Tony, and he and I had several conversations post GC2012 about the way the denomination was headed. Then last week we were recording an upcoming episode of Crackers & Grape Juice when Tony asked me what I thought the GC2016 would do and I told him that in true UMC fashion we would kick the can down the road some more. Which as of this morning seems to be the case.
I know several young clergy who are standing up and defying the BoD which is great but in with a global polity seems to be too little too late. And yes just like everyone else, clergy need health insurance and retirement, but at what expense? I know several clergy who have told me the only reason they are sticking around is for those benefits.
What's missing here in our United Methodist Church is the 'united' part. We have become so obsessed with one specific sin by citing seven specific verses of scripture that we have forgotten that it is Christ's body which unites us and it is Christ's life and call for discipleship that we are all supposed to be modeling. Without being able to listen to one another, and approaching this difficult topic with love, the denomination will not be able to move forward in a united manner.
At the end of the day we are
talking arguing about real people.
Real people with families.
Real people with kids.
Real people with hopes & fears.
It is my prayer that in the remained of GC2016 that the denominational body will learn to have a conversation and move away from the dysfunctional argument that has been going on the for the last four years. It is my prayer that we remember the 'United' that sits at the beginning of the name of the denomination so many love and have been working tirelessly to use as a platform for building the Kingdom of God.
So let's start with a conversation.
My conversation with Tony Jones will be available tomorrow on iTunes. Click the image below and subscribe to the Crackers & Grape Juice Podcast. We promise to provide you with theological conversations without stained glass language. In the queue we have interviews with N.T. Wright, Todd Littleton, Fleming Rutledge, and even a live event at the VA Conference of the United Methodist Church's Annual Conference.