I have spent the last few days decompressing and thinking about General Conference 2012. I have read many blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts with many different opinions. The one consistent theme between conservative, liberal, male, female, gay, straight, clergy, laity, and episcopacy is that no one is happy about what happened in Tampa. Another consistent theme is that of mistrust between the levels of our Church bureaucracy. In all cases, we must learn to do better. So I have been thinking about some ways we can do better 4 years from now and in time in between.
1) I think that the first full day of General Conference should be spent in mixers, ice breakers, games, and just talking, no legislative committees, no politicking, no motions. The delegates need to spend a day getting to know each other because that is the only way that trust can begin to form. If we don’t know each other passed the info on our name tags then how are we suppose to trust each other and do the business of the Church.
2) I think the delegates should be mixed up in the bar of the Conference. We should break up annual conference delegations and mix everyone up. Each day you would be at a different table with different delegates from different countries and cultures. Here again, we need to get to know each other and stop hanging out with our own social groups. We need to break out of our comfort zones and start talking, but more importantly start listening, to each other.
3) We need some other way of engaging in holy conferencing other than Robert’s Rules of Order. I don’t know what that would be, but RRO is just not getting the job done. It is too dry, too impersonal, and it does not take the Holy Spirit into account.
4) I think that bishops need to spend more time in their episcopal areas, meeting laity, shaking hands, and breaking bread. I know that bishops have a lot on their plate already, but I think this is vitally important to reestablishing trust between laity and episcopacy. I know that many of our lay persons could not tell you their bishops name or pick him or her out of a crowd. I think bishops should make appearances in each other their districts at least once a year.
5) I am a firm believer in term limits for General Conference delegates both clergy and laity, Conference and District Boards of Ordained Ministry, and even P/SPRCs. There are many faces that remain the same year after year and while it is great that there are some who dedicate years of service to their Church, I believe that new people can bring new ideas and experiences to the discussion.
6) Delegates also should be well versed in United Methodist polity and theology. I saw many people at GC2012 who were not familiar with either. It is vitally important that we all begin on the same page.
These are just some ideas. I am sure there are more out there. I hope that we take the next three+ years and work to do better than we did this quadrennium