This is what we need to do, United Methodist Church. Not that you asked me. But I can fix it. I call my plan “The DIRT.”
Here’s how it goes: No new petitions will be allowed at the 2020 General Conference. The Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions will be “paused” for four years. The entire General Conference of 2020 will be devoted to the formation of a 24 person “Discipline Rewrite Team,” known as the DIRT.
We will meet people, get to know them, hear their ideas, nominate those we think would be good to serve on the DIRT, and at the end of our Conference, we would elect them and they would get to work. General Conference 2020 would be devoted exclusively to this purpose. And, most importantly, the election of the DIRT would imply approval of the work they would do.
Their task would be to start from a blank slate and write a brand new Book of Discipline, and here are the only guidelines we would give them.
- They would have four years to do it.
- The final product should be as simple and succinct as possible, like 50 pages max.
- They would be instructed to create a book of policy that
1) empowers the local church to accomplish the mission,
2) redefines connectionalism for the 21st century, and
3) articulates that which comprises a distinct United Methodist ethos.
So then, in 2024 we would vote to abolish the old Book of Discipline and approve the new one without debate or motions to amend. We would be able to do this with confidence because of all the relational work we would have done in 2020. And then the rest of General Conference 2024 would be devoted to training on the new Discipline, which the DIRT would facilitate.
Here’s the motivation for my proposal: The structure of the United Methodist Church has become a hot sticky tar pit in which our ecclesial dinosaur has become stuck and is slowly being engulfed. The Book of Discipline is a document filled with unnecessary complexity that nobody actually understands fully. It has been amended and tweaked and adjusted and added to little by little over the years to the point where now it is almost completely useless for meaningful governance. The UMC needs a massive change, and the DIRT plan is the only way it can happen. Otherwise we’re just adding another layer of tar to the pit.
Frankly, I cannot find a single flaw in this plan. Other than, you know, it will never actually happen. Other than that though, I’m pretty sure I have just fixed the United Methodist Church! You’re welcome.