Tuesday, May 08, 2012

General Conference Could be Our "Facebook"

I feel like I used to when Mom would tell me to clean my room. I knew it had to be done but I really didn’t want to.

Okay, I’ll do a wrap-up blog on General Conference 2012, geez. (*Picture rolling eyes and stomping off to my computer with an exasperated sigh*)

See, I thought all the General Conference stuff was going to be … just fine. I didn’t think anything amazing was going to happen and nothing amazing did. It wasn’t awful; it wasn’t great. It did exactly what it is designed to do, and now it’s over. It was just fine.

I really feel bad for all of the wonderful people who worked so hard for such a long time only to have all their hard work rejected by the committee or tabled by the conference or just ignored altogether. I respect them for their work, their dedication, and faithfulness. Thank you!

Specifically …
- I think the restructure would have been a good thing, and it will be when it eventually happens, either because we choose it or we’re forced to do it because we literally can’t afford not to.

- I think the Hamilton/Slaughter amendment was brilliant, and I hope Annual Conferences will consider endorsing it this year as a way to encourage local congregations to meaningful, grace-filled, and respectful dialogue about homosexuality.

- I hope the end of the guaranteed appointment doesn’t regress us back to a day when prejudice was common enough to really need it, and I really don’t think it will with all the accountability built into the system.

- I love being in full communion across the spectrum of our Methodist cousin denominations!

- I wish we had divested from the companies that profit from Israel’s military; I understand the argument of those who want to influence things by staying invested, although I am skeptical that we actually will do so.

But really, I am more than ever before convinced that the change necessary for the United Methodist Church cannot be legislated in the current General Conference structure. We are fooling ourselves if we think it can. And GC 2012 did a lot to reinforce this idea.

AsI’ve written before, my ideal model for an Annual Conference would be as a kind of “Google” for local congregations. Well, what if the General Conference could be “Facebook” for the denomination as a whole?

Facebook is a social network that connects people, coordinates groups, promotes ideas, and pools resources. Isn’t that what General Conference at its best ought to do?

We are a global connection whose coordinated focus is to promote the mission of God in communities all around the world. Couldn’t General Conference be our Facebook? We wouldn’t have General Boards and Agencies, we would have groups and pages! We could send “friend requests” to churches all around the world through the General Conference. We could create events like Imagine No Malaria and Nothing But Nets, and contribute via our denominational PayPal accounts to make them happen.

The fundamental shift that needs to happen at the General level is from old-school, hierarchical authority to postmodern, flattened-out collaboration. If we actually believe that the most impact happens at the local congregation level, then everything we did as a broader connection would have to be geared toward equipping and empowering the church in local communities around the world.

The General Conference would stop telling local churches what they can and cannot do, and start asking local churches what they actually want to do - how they feel God is uniquely calling them to fulfill the mission – and then the Conference would work to make it happen.

I know, I know – dream on. Come to think of it, I used to daydream a lot when Mom sent me to clean my room, too!


Zach said...

Thanks for your insight, Andy. I was there for the whole thing, and just felt like we didn't get "it." We need colaboration and idea sharing, and not beg for permission to do ministry. I think that was the fault of all the restructure plans. Each wanted to maintain some level of hierarchy that isn't where we need to be. Let's all keep dreaming, and that dream will come true!

Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for the feedback Andy. I do wonder if the UMC would do well in allowing congregations a bit more flexibility especially in states that have passed gay marriage laws.

Cynthia Astle said...

UM Insight would like to include your blog post in our GC wrap-up. Please reply to one.scribe56@gmail.com. Thanks!