Church in Need of Bold Action Chooses No Action!

General Conference 2012 of The United Methodist Church began last Tuesday and ends next Friday. As I understand it, during the first week, individual committees prepare petitions for action on the main floor of the general conference.

I have been following events from a distance via the internet, including Twitter, which, at times, offers play-by-play action as delegates and visitors tweet what’s happening in their respective committees.

One of the big items for consideration was the Call to Action. However, the General Administration committee responsible for dealing with this piece of legislation set it aside early on to consider a safer alternative (Plan B, and then MFSA). You can read a more detailed account of events in the The United Methodist Reporter’s article, Panel fails, in overtime, to recommend restructuring plan.

First, the Call to Action may not have been perfect (the presenters even said so but challenged General Conference to “perfect it”). But at least it was bold. The United Methodist Church, in need of bold action, chose this week, through one of the General Conference legislative committees, to take no action!

What I read last night, as events were transpiring, was very disheartening. It was disheartening because General Conference had an opportunity to do something bold, and the bold plan never even made it to the main floor. That’s a bad sign for the future of the denomination, which has long been in decline in the U.S. and Europe.

Now, fortunately, I am an eternal optimist, and while the general conference’s inaction is disheartening for me, I am not disheartened. My hope is in God. Thankfully, the renewal and transformation of my local church does not depend on the actions of General Conference!

I also have been encouraged by comments and tweets by other leaders in the Methodist movement, such as the following …

Bishop Willimon, via WillimonTweets, a Twitter account tweets things he says, stated …

While I’m disappointed that the bishops’ proposals for greater coherence and accountability for the boards and agencies appears to be being replace by Plan B, I’m not surprised. It’s very difficult to turn around a church in precipitous decline. People are fearful of change. However, I want to reassure those who are concerned about our church that most of us change oriented bishops will not stop working for a more faithful, vibrant church! (Tweets one, two, three, and four)

At, Willimon was quoted …

It’s been clear that there was a move to oppose the CTA [Call to Action] plan for a while. It’s been interesting to see some pretty diverse groups work together on this out of spite for the Council of Bishops.

The article states Willimon believes the “‘wrong folks’ are voting at General Conference.” According to Willimon, “Most of the people here, including myself, were put here by the existing system. You can’t imagine that those folks are going to vote against the system that brought them here.”

Thankfully, though, Bishop Willimon asserts, “Those of us who are working to bring about reform will not be slowed down nor will we stop.”

I have also appreciated comments by Bishop Mike Coyner, who tweeted this morning

no plan for restructure passed because of denial about current reality, fear of change, and self-interest of too many UMC employees

I’ve always appreciated Bishop Scott Jones’ writings. Recently, he tweeted

I must remember–The Holy Spirit is here and working. some progress … Not enough, but all who heard Adam will live differently.

Adam Hamilton was the key presenter of the Call to Action.

In his post, How Much Change?, Bishop Jones writes …

I tweeted yesterday that all who heard Adam Hamilton’s presentation Wednesday will go home changed. Even those who disagree have now seen the choices before us. We may choose the lesser change by adopting Plan B. That, despite my misgivings, is a step forward. But more change will be coming in the future.

Sadly, however, outside of a major last-minute miracle, there will no step forward at this general conference (for restructuring), as the committee axed the alternative plans as well.

Finally, I also found the thoughts of Rev. Tom Berlin, whom we met at an event in 2010, in a blog post have resonated with me, as well.

This General Conference is interesting to me, not only because it’s my “tribe,” but also because it’s a case study in leadership and transformation as an organization seeks to regain organizational vitality. It’s no easy task!

Edited to say that three days after this post, General Conference approved “Plan UMC,” a compromise plan for restructuring. While not as bold as the Call to Action, it appears to be a significant step in the right direction!

Edited (again) to say that three days after approving Plan UMC, the church’s top court, the Judicial Council, ruled the restructuring legislation unconstitutional. During the conference’s closing hours, general conference took action to dramatically shrink agency boards. This addresses the problem of large board, but doesn’t address the real problem of focus and alignment!

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