Prior to General Conference 2012, I was hopeful there would be significant restructuring of The United Methodist Church. It’s not that I thought streamlining the structure was the most important thing; it’s simply necessary. I was disappointed when General Conference failed to approve a plan for restructuring (see Church in Need of Bold Action Chooses No Action!).
In the aftermath of GC2012, I’ve been thinking a lot about the transformation of the UMC (see General Conference and the Transformation of The United Methodist Church and “The Recovery of a Contagious Methodist Movement”). I find myself thinking less about structure, partly because the next General Conference is four years away, but also because restructuring alone will not transform the UMC!
Today, Bishop Mike Coyner (whom I’ve been quoting a lot lately), wrote, It Was Never About Structure. Bishop Coyner suggests it was a good thing the Judicial Council ruled out the hastily developed “Plan UMC.”
Bishop John Schol, in his post-General Conference reflection, cites the problem of “using structure to fix adaptive spiritual challenges.” Streamlining structure is necessary, but it alone is not going to lead to the transformation of the UMC!
Ultimately, transformation is God’s work (God simply chooses to use us). One of the challenges proponents of restructuring faced at General Conference was convincing delegates from the Central Conferences (especially in Africa and Asia where the church is growing, dramatically) of the need for restructuring. The structure doesn’t seem to be hindering the growth and vitality in Africa and Asia, which should lead us to believe that our hope is not in the structure but in the power of God!
Yes, the structure is less than perfect and it may get in the way, but God is not limited by our structure. If we believe God is limited by our structure, we have bigger problems than bloated, archaic structure!