This morning I sent the following email to our friends and colleagues at the Missouri Conference Office. My goal was to express my feelings about a decision made recently regarding United Methodist church camping in Missouri. These are just my feelings - I claim them and I own them. And I want to share them with you...
I want you to know how I feel. Almost all of you know me, and know that I carry no agenda and bear no ill will. I simply want you to know how I feel about recent developments in our conference's camping ministries.
I feel like, if I do not say "I am excited about the new direction camping is taking," that I will be somehow judged as part of the problem.
I feel like the dismissal and eviction of some of my dear friends was presented as a calculated business decision, void of grace.
I feel like, if I offer my sincere critique of the "new direction" it will be casually dismissed with "well, change is always hard."
I feel like "land near the campus" on which we might have some "unique rugged experiences" is supposed to somehow replace a days-long immersion in the midst of God's beautiful creation.
I feel like a small group of powerful older people made a decision that impacts a large group of relatively powerless children and youth without hearing from those voices in any meaningful way.
I feel like you think just explaining the money situation again is a sufficient response to the pain of this moment.
I feel like I have nothing to offer the children and youth of my congregation, including my own children, when they ask me why this happened.
That's how I feel. It is important to me that I express these feelings to you, brothers and sisters. I think it is important for you to hear those feelings. And I thank you for hearing them with ears of grace and understanding. I do not need you to validate my feelings or affirm my response in any way. The opportunity to simply express them is enough. I am also planning to post these feelings on my blog, as another channel of expression and communication within the connection. Granted I am only a part of "the 20%" who utilize Missouri UM church camps, and thus in the minority, but perhaps my posting these feelings online will provide a venue for some others to express similar grief and pain, should it exist.
Finally, I feel as though this decision is pretty much finalized on your part, and the ongoing effort to "Save MO UM Camps" will be fruitless. However I am hopeful that the dialogue generated by that effort will be grace-filled and respectful. The atmosphere is fraught with emotion, which is okay as long as it does not degrade into bitterness and enmity. May the Spirit of God guide us always.
Andy Bryan, Pastor
Campbell United Methodist Church
My goal in posting my feelings here is not to create animosity or bitterness. It is simply to share publicly what's going on in my noodle at the moment, wondering at the same time if there are any others out there struggling with similar feelings today. If you are led to respond, I ask that your response be grace-filled and respectful, or I will ask you to delete it.