A first breath after the General Conference dust storm

Over the next several posts I would like to share some General Conference reflections as now the dust is settling. These posts will not so much look at the bits of legislation that did or did not pass. These posts will use specific conference actions as examples for a larger point. These posts are designed for those who did not attend, don't care or are tired of reading what did/did not happen, or those who are looking for the larger Spirit of the UMC as lived out at the General Conference. These are only my thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of the Central Texas Conference or her delegation or Bishop. 

In order to better get a sense of where these posts are headed here are the topic headings:

  • Language Monopoly
  • Sit, Stay, Go - A Dilemma in Table Manners
  • Double Victory in an Age of Winners and Losers

And so while I am still processing all that happened in the ten days and the fall out of General Conference there is still ministry to be done. Until these forthcoming GC posts arrive. I invite you to hear/watch (beginning at the 30 minute mark) this sermon called "Why did Ananias and Sapphira really die?" It is the story in Acts when two people dropped dead after it was discovered they held back money from the Church. It is an odd story, however, it relates to General Conference and the state of the UMC. Peace.

Rev. Dr. Maria Dixon Hall giving voice to feelings held by right/left at #UMCGC

The Rev. Dr. Maria Dixon Hall is an associate professor of organizational communication/Non-Profit studies at SMU in Dallas, Texas. She is a progressive and has a history that is longer than me. She is a Deacon, African American, professor, and theologian that gives me pause to think on a number of things. She has given voice to feelings that many people I have visited with at General Conference 2016 have stated. 

While Rev. Dixon Hall is a progressive and speaks from that position, I can tell you that I have heard conservatives and other progressives at the conference say similar things. Progressives have said to me, I am with the cause but these demonstrations nudge me away from the cause. Conservatives have said to me, the more I see these types of disruptive demonstrations the more I distance myself from the cause.

And so as a white, heterosexual male I have hesitated to share these personal feelings, however, I can only say "Amen" to the good Rev. Dixon Hall.

Read the whole thing here: Progressives Playing with Fire: Mad Methodists, Berners, & the Myth of Prophetic Arson

The means are the ends at #UMCGC

General Conference is a gathering of rules and a desire for order. It is one that votes in either/or. There are yes or no votes. There are few times when there are more than two options. It is a place that is ripe with opportunities for misunderstanding and misrepresentation. These are not malicious opportunities, it is just the way the General Conference is set up. Because it is a body that values accomplishing something, the focus is on “ends”.

When petitions come forward, there seems to be a level of suspicion of “what is the end game to this petition?” Because there is such distrust among the body, there is a cloud that hangs over the body that showers down doubt and even more mistrust. Rather than assuming petitions are submitted in good faith, the general conference body seems to assume that petitions are crafted to hide their true intentions which have a nefarious ends.

The reality is that one of the things that marks the Church from other organizations is that in the Church our means are the ends.  Other organizations places priority on the ends, what is accomplished, what is completed, what is the bottom line. There are ethical boundaries that guide many in the business world, however “at the end of the day” there is a desire to meet the goal, achieve the goal, arrive at a place, and meet the projections.

The reality is that the Church is one that proclaims that God came in Jesus Christ. To put it another way, Christianity is one that affirms that the means are the ends. How God does what God does is what God does. How we do what we do is what we do. Few will know much of the decisions that are made, but what will be remembered is the actions that are taken. The means we take is the end that people will “know” about the Church.

We can say all that we want that we are a loving people and desire for reconciliation. However nice our creeds are, it is our actions that are branded in the minds of the world. Christianity is seen as a hypocritical and “anti” organization by many outside the church.

When we confuse the ends as primary, we will take any means to achieve them. Let us not forget that our means are the end.