The GC is the only body that speaks on behalf of The United Methodist Church. It is where we establish church law and make decisions that will come to bear on our denominational life for at least one quadrennium. It is crucial that our denominational decisions be steeped in prayer and discernment. Our conferencing should be rooted in the holiness of God and guided by the Holy Spirit. There is a great deal at stake in many of our decisions.
Personally speaking, “holy” is not the adjective I would use to describe what went on at the 2012 GC. It was a spectacle that would have made the Ringling Brothers blush. Constant protests and, finally, the stopping of all business of the GC by LGBT protesters is what most people will take away from our time together. Oh, and the Twitter feed–that was ugly. Despite the approximately $8.5 million we invested in this event, we accomplished very little of significance. We honed our skills of insulting one another via social media and left more divided than when we began. That is immoral.
The 2016 GC is beginning to loom like a storm on the horizon. A funnel cloud might be a better analogy. Given recent events relating to ecclesial disobedience and the possibility of a division of the UMC into two or more denominations, I think we should expect the atmosphere of 2012 to seem calm by comparison.
I suggest that we close the GC meeting space to all but delegates, bishops, and other essential personnel. Anyone who wishes to watch the proceedings can do so via live streaming. We should ban all caucus groups from having a presence inside our gathering space: no protests, no signs, no distribution of materials, no flash mobs, no stopping our work together. We should focus on the business at hand with as little distraction as possible. There is plenty of work to do relating to a broad variety of ministries. There will be issues related to security of appointment, our international ministries, our work with the poor, our ministries with people with disabilities, and outreach to young people. Legislative proposals regarding our stance on human sexuality will undoubtedly come forward. There may be various restructuring plans to consider. To have all of this business function in an atmosphere of constant distraction is unfair to the people who care deeply about these ministries. To have this business preempted by the protests of a single group–as may well happen again–would be another sign of deep, abiding dysfunction in our denomination.
Some may object that this proposal would silence demonstrations in favor of LGBT ordination and marriage in the UMC. It would not of course silence any legislation or discussion of these matters, and discussion and legislation belong properly within the business of the GC. Further, we should bear in mind that counter-demonstrations are possible as well. Do we really want to operate in such a way that any group that feels strongly enough about its position can interrupt the work of the GC, particularly in light of the enormous cost of this event? According to the UMR, the 2016 GC will cost almost $11 million. How do we want to spend that time and money?