There's a lot to take away from GC2012, despite what people are saying. For myself, this was the first UMC General Conference that I've ever paid any attention too. And why is that? Because I'm paying more attention to what's going on in the local church ... What happened at the GC is indicative of what happens in the local church. Macro view to micro view. How often has any of us had a bright idea to make changes only to have them shot down ... Not even with the opportunity to compromise.
Wait, this should probably be my concluding statement! Anyway, here are a few things that I'm taking away. I'm not full of knowledge just yet on the inner workings of our global denomination, but it will be my mission to get on that ball. I'm more concerned than ever that the UMC turn the tide on our decline ... My boy needs to grow up in this church!
I said this in an earlier blog post, but the #UMC blew up twitter over the last 10 days. It's been an epic-level event of building connections. I've made genuine friends and found a lot of new voices to follow, both young and old. I can't wait to keep reading and stay in touch with these folks. It's been a real blessing, from the play-by-play to theological breakdowns of policy and worship, I feel like a journey together for many of us has just started. Although, I will say, there were a great many folks who broke into the twitter conversation to spread hate. Not cool.
"General Conference Young People". Following this #tag was a real trip this week. It wasn't just young people involved either, a great many people from across the spectrum used this tag to join in conversations. I sure hope the UMC was listening.
I refuse to be cynical about it, but pretty much nothing I cared about going into this GC passed through on the plenary floor, if it made it out of committee at all. I'm not the only one that felt this way, either. We were so caught up in Robert's Rules of Order, that ministry was hampered again and again. The IOT/CTA plan? Fail. Plan B? Fail. Plan C, D, or E? Fail. And people keep saying that the word wasn't out enough ... Not true. People just didn't do their homework, by and large. At least that's how I felt, watching the proceedings. We couldn't even agree that we disagree on matters of human sexuality. Fail.
Term limits? Yes, Please.
This was a topic of conversation throughout the GC. There were many people at the GC for the 7th, 8th, and 9th times. And people applauded it. Many of the big items on the floor had been up for decades. But nothing changes, time after time. Is there any wonder why? It's the same people every GC! I realize I'm oversimplifying a bit ... But I would propose to limit terms on going to GC to three times. That way, people get to go that know the process, but it encourages new voices to come in. We do it on our church committees, why not for the GC?
Guaranteed appointments ...
Just as Plan UMC was shot down as unconstitutional, you watch this baby be shot down too. I understand apprehension here, our Elders join in covenant with the ACs when they take their vows. But ... what to do with ineffective clergy? They get to keep their jobs! Some feel it way stifle prophetic voices, keep pastors from making waves ... And it's a real concern. The process for not giving an appointment to an elder needs to have many, many, checks and balances. But as I'm in a conference with a ton of clergy, and not much room for new, younger voices, there needs to be a way to tell pastors that it's not working out. Until you've been in a room with a pastor who says, "They can get me out, but that's ok with me, because I'll just get another church.", you may not understand how I feel about this. But somebody probably does, because the legislation was put out there, and it passed to end guaranteed appointments. My hope is that it encourages more pastors to go for it and get radical.
As debate went on on the floor, a real problem, and a blessing became apparent ... We're a global church! Much of the business needed to be decided pertained to matters in the US. It became very difficult to pass big policy due to the fact that there are many global perspectives that need to be accounted for. All of the conferences not in the US are called "Central Conferences". There's talk now of separation a bit from these Central Conferences, letting conferences in other countries legislate for themselves in order to compensate for cultural issues. But how do we do that and remain a global denomination? It's a little over my head at this point, but it's clear that something needs to give.
We're so dramatic
As things wore on, especially last night, there was much talk on twitter of the UMC being doomed. Many comparisons to the Titanic abounded. It was kind of offensive. I wonder how many people (including clergy!) last night who said they had given up hope on the UMC actually left it today ... We are called to be people of hope. I have a ton of it.
Also called #umcrising at this point, there's a movement to coordinate voices for change in the UMC leading to GC2016. Some much hope is floating around out there, even after the frustration over the last 10 days. Good things are coming for those who are faithful. I can't wait to get started on the work, because you bet I want to be involved in what's coming. How do I get myself on the worship team in 2016? Because I'm so there.
Let's not forget, through, all of this ... The work of the church is mostly carried out in the church! I'm fired up to lead, filled with the spirit of Pentecost, ready to get moving with the Holy Spirit. It might have been a little dissapointing watching the proceedings the last few days, but I'm more ready than ever to answer my call to lead worship in my community. With God's help, the global church will catch up with Christ's call to love one another.