May 15 2012

Enter the Rainbow: What About Joy?

Original post at http://entertherainbow.blogspot.com/2012/05/what-about-joy.html

Over on UM Insight, my most recent blog elicited this comment from a reader:

agree that something has to be done about the way that the UMC is heading. I don't think that this is the way to do it. What if what a local church wants is to not pay apportionments and be free to discriminate? (Perhaps that is what some want now.) The question is how do we retain the ability to act and speak as a denomination and yet have a lot less "top down" governance. How do we give more authority to the local church without becoming the "rope of sand" bemoned (sic) by Whitfield? And if the real thrust of what we are doing is to give more power to the local church what does that say about the episcopacy and the superintendency? What did the study commissioned by the Council of Bishops say about the effect of apportionments on the local church? Is the general church here to serve the local church or is it the other way round? Not having been at GC I can only ask questions as someone outside looking in. All I can say is, we are better than this. Rather than scapegoating some while holding others sacred we need to continue to do the work of the Great Commission while working together on solutions.

This comment was posted by “John Wesley.” I was flattered.

I commented back to Mr. Wesley:

Mr. Wesley, While I am indeed honored that you have commented on my humble blog, allow me to ask you to go ahead and answer your own question. What if a congregation doesn't pay apportionments? What if a congregation or a pastor discriminates? (My answer - the GC responds to a congregation acting thusly in the same manner a congregation responds to a church member who is.)
But then answer mine - What if they don't? What if UM congregations are so excited by what is happening in the denomination they simply can't wait to pay 110% of their apportionment? What if UM congregations are so fired up by the ethos of grace that they begin to truly welcome all people fully?
If you'll forgive me, since I know you only by reading your sermons and a few of your journal entries, Mr. Wesley, thinking "What if something goes wrong?" is exactly the kind of thinking that is stifling our denomination.
We need to start asking, "What if everything exceeds our wildest imagination?"

Then I read an article today about withholding apportionments as a way to affect change in the denomination. The article is a litany of negativism and hopelessness that really harshes my buzz, man. And it is only one in a long list of laments written in response to the 2012 meeting of the General Conference.

The majority of responses that I have read have been either pity parties or gripe sessions or angry diatribes. We are angry, we are upset, we are afraid. And those of us who aren’t are taking an attitude that says the 2012 General Conference was a harbinger of rebirth and radical transformation; in other words, it was awful - but better things are surely coming.

Why do we United Methodists seem to be unable to ask any question other than, “What if something goes wrong?" or "What if we die?" We use terms that are designed to elicit fear and despair, and then we wonder why everybody is so afraid and gloomy. Um … duh.

We are asking, “What if something goes wrong,” and “What if our denomination splits,” and “What if we run out of money,” and “What if our structure collapses,” as if these questions have anything whatsoever to do with the way the world is being transformed in spite of us.

Yes, the world is changing, has changed, is forever different than it was a generation ago. And we’re missing it as we engage in denominational hand-wringing.

Okay, look - our General Boards are going to restructure, but now it will be because they are forced to rather than because the General Conference did so proactively. They are just going to run out of money and not be able to function as they currently do. I wish we would have been able to anticipate and preempt this, but we didn’t. Now it will happen reactively instead.

But even that’s not the point.

All of this negativity around this year’s General Conference is misplaced and not the least bit helpful. We expend so much organizational energy being anxious about the “What ifs” that our fear not only paralyzes us, it also distracts us from all of the wonderful stuff, changing stuff, transformational stuff, stuff that we can celebrate.

What we miss is the joy. What about joy? There is so much to rejoice over, and we can’t even see it because we’re so afraid.

Do we remember? We follow a Teacher who told a story once about leaving behind 99 perfectly flocked sheep in order to find one that was lost, and then rejoiced when it was found. One sheep. Call the neighbors, throw a party - Rejoice!

Have we forgotten how to rejoice?

Personally, in small groups, in congregations, and percolating upward from there, we need to remember how to rejoice. We need to stop asking, What if we die?

What we need to be asking is - What if we live?

About the author

Andy B.

Permanent link to this article: http://methoblog.com/3_0/2012/05/what-about-joy/

1 comment

  1. Dr. James McReynolds

    I have been studying joy for 40 years. My latest book is A Spirituality of Joy,
    published by Parson’s porch. My church vision is “to create an atmosphere where joy and miracles happen.” Let us join God with joy.

    God always provides.

    Pastor Jim, minister of joy to the world

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