The Folly of Form-Focus November 29, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Core Values, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Transformation and Change.
Tags: Mission & Purpose, The United Methodist Church, Vision
I have been asked by a number of people to comment on the 2009-2012 Study of Ministry Commission Report & Recommendations. This I am about to do, but I need to set up the criteria by which I am judging the current effort. There are three fundamental lenses (if you will) that I read through, and if you disagree with any of the three, my opinions won’t carry much weight:
- form actually NEEDS to follow function
- predicating recommendations upon unchallenged assumptions results in more of what we already have
- laying exclusive bias as your foundation risks a house of cards
Examples of each:
- when I chaired the denomination’s task force on the relationship of science and theology, I spent a lot of time with biologists, geneticists, computer programmers and artificial intelligence mavens who pointed out that discipleship is about transactivation, not transformation — we are not seeking a change of form, but one of function and reach. A caterpillar does not become a butterfly, then try to figure out what it is supposed to do. The organic function changes and the form follows to allow it to fulfill its function. A change of form does not necessarily bring about a deeper change at the core, but a fundamental change at the core always alters form. And the beauty of transactivation is that it is genetic and viral — changing the individual organism as well as the genus. We actually want to make disciples for the transactivation of the world. Messing around with form without attending to function is essentially a waste of time. (Keep in mind for later…)
- throughout history, people have actually starved to death because of false beliefs about “unclean” and “unsafe foods.” Because everyone knew a food was poisonous or prohibited, when it came time to eat or starve, some chose to starve. What we decide to be true shapes all our subsequent thinking, and when we begin from the idea that our normal way of operating is right, then our suggestions for change lack any real power to change anything.
- have we learned nothing from the 19th and 20th century gender wars? Making the experience of some the general assumption for all is the worst possible form of paternalism. Whenever we equate “Methodism” (in all its forms) with a “Wesleyan heritage” we are making fools of ourselves — especially since so much of what we have decided in the last few decades is “Wesleyan” would not be recognized by Wesley himself. Our lack of a solid knowledge of our WHOLE history is leading us to some very unfortunate recommendations.
Okay, so here goes nothing.
Thanks Giving November 22, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Church Leadership, Core Values, The United Methodist Church, U.S. Culture.
Tags: Christian Community, Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Values
There is often a chasm between what we say is important and the actions we take which reveal what is truly important (like saying “we want to make disciples,” then counting “worship attenders.”) to us. Something is always driving us, but identifying exactly what it is isn’t always easy. You would think that “faith” would be a big driver in the church, but talk to many of our leaders today and it is evident that “fear” is our guiding value. “Spiritual maturity” would make sense as a core value, but “church membership” is apparently much more valuable. “Lives touched” is a noble value, but “dollars given” occupies a lot more of our time and attention. Here is a list of core practices and values that we claim are important – coupled with the behaviors that tell a deeper story in today’s church:
C is for… November 6, 2011Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian witness, Identity & Purpose, The United Methodist Church.
Tags: Church Leadership, The United Methodist Church, Values, Vision
But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good,
Oh, Lord! Please don’t let me be misunderstood.
Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell & Sol Marcus
I received an email from a woman in Texas — I do seem to irritate people from Texas more than from any other state (right, Don Underwood?) — who hit me with a bit of an ultimatum:
Why do you stay Methodist when it is obvious you think the leaders are ignorant and incapable? You are wasting a slot at General Conference. Are you planning to disrupt the good work there as well? It seems that you work hard to hurt the church you say you love. If you love the United Methodist Church, the best thing you could do for it is leave. We would all be better off.
I am glad this woman acknowledges that I love my church. I certainly do. This is the only reason I am critical of the short-sighted and irrational decisions that are being made. My criticism that we sold our soul to secular consultants to tell us who we are and what we ought to be doing is indeed severe, but no less true. I worked for an agency where the leadership had no clue what to do, so they paid exorbitant amounts of money to outsiders to tell them, and it did them no good whatsoever. I will never agree that this egregious waste of World Service dollars was wise. But I say these things because I love the church, and I want us to be better. The selfish and ego-centric nature of the Call to Action, Ministry Study, restructuring and the global church? All exactly the same thing. However, for those who have not paid attention to my whole message, I have not simply criticized the insipid and nonsensical, but have offered my perspective on what might be done instead.