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:
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.
was posted by “John Wesley.” I was flattered.
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
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
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
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?