Following up on my post from yesterday, I think that it is rather clear that our Bishop’s led.
Thank you, Lord.
Thank you, Bishops.
They did not demure to the plenary session. They did not let unanimity keep them from leading. To be clear, among the members of the Council of Bishops, there’s the consistent reporting that 7 bishops were against the plan that the General Conference approved. That is a vast minority. Moreover, there was support form Africa and Philippine Central Conference bishops.
The work is not over. What we did was simply give ourselves the space to make some decisions, led by our bishops. Moving forward, clergy and laypersons need to lead well by trusting.
From here, we need to believe what we profess: that what we do here, and the knock-on effects of thereupon, has something to with our life with and belief in Jesus. The angst-ridden spirit in the room was on display for the world to see. And yet, somehow, we got through. We found a way forward. I hold that the time spent in prayer has something to do with not only yesterday’s outcome but also the sheer fact that we were able to complete yesterday’s session without needing to adjourn in the middle of deliberations. As our church lives into the actions of GC 2016, names the Special Commission, and they begin their work. We need to believe that the Advocate whom was promised to us will be present in their work.
Trust Each Other
There is no need to be naive; the composition of the Special Commission the General Conference approved will be all important and contentious. Our bishops have been differentiated enough in their leadership. I pray that they will resist all the lobbying that I’m assuming is already taking place and appoint the people that the Spirit places on their hearts.
The clergy and lay folks of the church needs to trust each other, as well. We need to trust that we take our collectives mission seriously in each of our contexts. To stop doing ministry, hold back apportionment, or engage in the kind of caucusing that divides and demonizes is not helpful.
A further thought about trust. I walk away from GC2016 with great hope for our church, I also walk away with eyes-opened. I’ve watched people I know and love put forward information in a way that seems to be for subjective gain. Some of it was happenstance, accidental, and unintentional. Some was not. We must do better, church.
Much has been said about Bishop Bill McAlilly and his presidency of yesterday afternoon’s session. I, for one, respect his work. I must have been difficult going back into the chair after a delegate put the question forward for him to step down. To continue to serve graciously in the midst of anxious deliberation demands a deep, abiding maturity and trust in our processes. He is a courageous leader. Yes, mistakes were made but a room on the edge found its collective release in a parliamentary error. It wasn’t the first erro and certainly was not the most egregious. We need more leaders with his spirit. Thank you, Bishop.
Trust the Process
We have asked them to lead, now we need to do our part. No, we don’t do our collective best lemur impersonation. Neither do we need to approach the fruits of their work and the Special Commission with a Called General Conference game of Whack-a-mole. May we approach their work with the same embrace & intentionality that they responded to our request.
One of my more favorite books is Failure of Nerve. The book can be best summed up that we often know good responses to matters before us but we make poor decisions because we are anxious. Either people will not like us, they will ask us to move next year, or people will leave. So we take the easy way out. We do not say “no” and mission creep happens. We do not speak the truth in love to our colleagues or parishioners and poor behavior continues. Writ large as a denomination and General Conference, there’s significant numbers of people who have vested interest in things not changing. There’s no blame here–supporting “the way things are” is part of what got these delegates in their seats. We need to continue to pray, think about, and dream of the Church God is calling us to be.
I do believe that God is not through with the United Methodist Church. There are imaginative ways forward that would allow for ministry in Jesus’ name with integrity, is respectful of cultural context, and reflective of the the global nature of our church.