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.

How to Prevail at the #UMCGC

Genesis 32 tells of a story where a man named Jacob wrestles with one often understood to be God. In the middle of the story this exchange happens:

The prevailing is in the wrestling. Rev. Rob Renfroe and Rev. Jason Valendy.

The prevailing is in the wrestling. Rev. Rob Renfroe and Rev. Jason Valendy.

But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ 

What is interesting is that when Jacob/Israel wrestles with God, it is Jacob who prevails. We sometimes think of this as like a WWF match, where one person prevails and gets to walk away with the championship belt while the other is a looser. However, how is it possible for anyone who has wrestled with God to loose? How could anyone who has ever come face to face with the God of life ever loose?

It is the very act of wrestling with God and with man that one prevails. It is the one who does not wrestle who does not prevail. 

It is this story that I would submit to the General Conference of the UMC. To think in terms of which side prevails and which side does not prevail misses the point. It is the act of wrestling that we do in these days that we all prevail. If we decide to split and fracture, we refuse to wrestle.