My tribe, the United Methodist Church, met in Tampa over the past 10 days to make decisions regarding the mission of our denomination for the next 4 years. For my fellow UMC brothers and sisters – my quick take.
Observation #1 – Leadership Failure
A posse of self-fashioned “entrepreneurial bishops”along with the pastors of the 100 largest churches have taken it upon themselves to “lead” the church through the transformation that will align our structure and resources for effective ministry. This leadership led to the IOT, the Call to Action, and the focus of the GC2012. In community organizing, we have a simple definition of a leader – one who has a following. Unfortunately, the leadership style of this posse – which leans on corporate values, disrespects democratic processes, undermines broad participation, and marginalizes differing voices – does not engender the level of trust the denomination will need to be faithfully transformed.
Observation #2 – F#@%
Twenty years ago, I heard an apocryphal story about now Bishop Will Willimon. I don’t know if it is true, but I need it to be true. The story: In a sermon, preached at Duke Chapel, Willimon (Dean of the Chapel) preached these words – F#@%! Children are starving in Africa. And what is disheartening is that you are more offended by the fact I said “F#@%!”; than you are by the fact children are starving in Africa.
F#@%! The world and church need love and justice. And, what is disheartening is that the UMC fiddles with structure while the gospel is ignored.
Observation #3 – Why?
There is a story of a man resting in the shade. A person comes by and encourages the man to be more industrious. He encourages the man to get up and go fishing. The man ask why? So he could make some money and buy a boat. The man asks why? So he could catch more fish, make more money, buy more boats? The man asks why? So he can make more money and hire people to work for him? The man asks why, so he can make more money, buy a house, and spend his days resting in the shade.
Some how, this story seems appropriate. I think the idea of making vital congregations is too small. Perhaps, we should focus on changing the world for a while . . .