I’ve been decompressing since General Conference. It was emotionally exhausting, and I wasn’t even a delegate. To those of you who were delegates: I salute you for enduring this marathon of emotional, mental, and physical exertion. I hope you’re getting some time to wind down and relax. You certainly earned it.
I didn’t blog or post on Facebook at all during GC because, in the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll regret later. In truth, my mind is still spinning from everything that happened. At this time I’ll offer four brief reflections. Perhaps more will come later.
First, I was reminded of how many really fine people there are in our denomination. Across the theological spectrum, there are people of character and honor who love God and love the church, and who are really trying to do all the good they can for God in this broken world. In the midst of our ecclesiastical feuding, it was good to be reminded of this.
Second, it is becoming ever more apparent that The United Methodist Church is following the patterns of Christianity in the Global South. (On this point, see a post from February 2015, “The Next Methodism.”) We tend to think of Christianity as a “Western” religion, though its roots are in Western Asia and North Africa. After a prolonged period of European dominance shared briefly with North America, the center of Christianity is returning to Africa and Asia, and it is becoming increasingly Protestant and charismatic in Latin America. Delegates from outside the United States will soon dominate the General Conference. As a result, our denomination is becoming more theologically conservative. Over time this trend is also going to have serious implications for distribution of funding, including funding for theological education.
Third, there is very little trust within our denomination. This was exemplified nowhere more clearly than when Bishop McAlilly was accused of giving hand signals (!) to indicate which way delegates should vote, and was shortly thereafter accused of somehow torpedoing a controversial motion on the floor. It was an embarrassing moment, surprising even amidst the rancor of the Conference. I felt quite badly for the bishop. He deserved more respectful treatment than he received.
Fourth, it is absolutely imperative that we hire a professional parliamentarian for future conferences. It was frustrating that we spent so much time debating the rules of the Conference, but once we settled the matter there was considerable variation in the parliamentary aptitude of the presiding bishops. Points of order were legion, clogging the legislative process and diverting attention from the proper business at hand. Given the exorbitant cost of the Conference (about $1,400 per minute), we should attempt to maximize our capacity to engage in legislative business.
Okay…. I’ll stop there. Do you have reflections of your own? Please feel free to post them below (and please be charitable in your comments).