Everybody take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
As the fallout from General Conference descends upon the land, Methodist leaders across the nation (I don’t presume to speak for those abroad) are in a frenzy of frustration. The various restructuring proposals brought to GC failed to pass, and Plan UMC—the compromise that did pass—was ruled unconstitutional by the judicial council before the ink was dry.
The delegates are frustrated that their work seems for naught. Non-delegates are angry that our representatives are coming home with little to show except the removal of guaranteed appointment. And everyone is upset at the prospect of another four years of wondering what we do next.
Hold on, though. When the going gets tough—and oh my, has it gotten tough—we need a little perspective. It’s going to be okay.
Perhaps not in the sense that we wish. None of us want to see our Mother Church struggle so mightily. All of us want more faithful and fruitful ministries. Regardless of our wishes, however, it’s likely that she will flounder for at least a few more years.
But what’s really at stake with the failures of this year’s GC? From the furor over Plan UMC, the answer seems to be restructuring. Much of the church recognizes that our bureaucracy is far too bloated, and even though the Council of Bishops attempt to seize more power in the name of streamlining (see the Call to Action legislation) failed, virtually everyone I know still hopes to find a corrective to our inefficiency.
Still, we’re talking about efficiency here. And although it is certainly a component of faithful living, it’s rather low on the list. We are told to be loving, compassionate, merciful, courageous, faithful, hope-filled, and so forth. Jesus never says, “Above all, be thou efficient.”
I don’t mean to be flippant. I want to honor the hard work of the GC delegates, not to mention the prayerful support of so many behind the scenes. What they do or fail to do matters. But it doesn’t matter most of all.
Any legislation GC might have passed would not make us more faithful, nor I would argue, would it make us more fruitful. It would have made some decisions smoother. It might have saved us money (although, after watching similar premises to the CTA being enacted in my own annual conference, I have grave doubts about that).
But no one will be spurred toward greater acts of love because of restructuring. No one will sacrifice their time and prayers and energy and money for the sake of someone else because our church runs more efficiently. If we are going to thrive as Wesleyan Christians—with or without the UMC bureaucracy—the primary responsibility for that lies where it always has.
It lies with those of us close enough to our neighbors to love them directly.
And one way or another, it’s going to be okay.