GC2016 — Day Two

Having bogged down in a rather embarrassing debate over what rules to adopt to conduct our business, we are ready on Day Two to move forward.  Or are we?  What was depressing about our engagement was the  nitpicking, posturing, petulant, occasionally disrespectful and unnecessarily contentious nature of the proceedings.  If this is a glimpse of the way a minority of delegates will perform, we are in for some pretty petty encounters.  Majority did not rule (quickly enough) and a few personal agenda held the body captive for an unnecessarily extended poor stewardship of time.  This is not what we are here for.

There is so much distrust and suspicion about motives and hidden agendas.  So much “us/them” language.  So much political machinations behind the scenes.  Yes, I am aware this is General Conference, and as it is it always was and ever more shall be.  I’m not naïve or stupid (much).  But what are the outward and visible signs that we are growing up and moving forward?  Just because it “always happens this way” should not be a badge of pride.  Doing better should be a goal.  And so far, we aren’t doing better.  And we truly cannot afford same-old, same-old.

This morning in his Episcopal address, Bishop Gregory Palmer, called us to exercise humility and divest ourselves of our pride, place, prestige and power.  Are we able?  Humility does not mean weakness, nor does it call for an abdication of principles and core values.  It does call on us to interact differently, and to care for and about those we oppose.  Serving each other, respecting each other, and honoring each other cannot occur apart from humility.  We all “love” each other generically and abstractly, but we do not care for each other.  This is sad.

Doing no harm seems beyond us.  We are ambivalent to the ways we hurt each other.  Knowing that we should not in no way prevents us from attacking, insulting, impugning, disparaging, and mocking “them”.  Praying “about” is not the same as praying “with” and praying “for”.  We cannot conceptualize the reality that there is no “those people.”. Either “we” are “we” as the body of Christ, or we are not.  We will never get to any kind of positive future, if we commit to stay mired in an untenable, unpleasant, unkind present.

Go, Therefore is our General Conference theme, but we should not “go” anywhere if all we can do is spread distrust, malicious gossip, slander and slurs, insults and infection.  We must shift our focus from what we aren’t to what we can be; from how we are broken to how we are gifted; from a dismembered corpse to the vital, living body of Christ.

5 replies

  1. Some nice feedback on the concept of humility as an individual virtue and a communal value. Unfortunately, what often happens is that the powerful elite expect and impose humility on those without power. This is not humility, but humiliation and abuse. Keeping people in their place is not the point. Humility as I understand it is not about becoming a doormat. It is not about letting others do you violence or injury. It definitely is about our response to violence, abuse and injury. There is an aspect of the Golden Rule to true humility that transcends a simplistic “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” In the face of real violence, defense is acceptable. it is more in the realm of perceived slight and ascribing malicious intent that I write. To assume the worst about those with whom you disagree is not humility, but hubris.

  2. A view from the UMC pew: Sadly, the exchange between you and Creed Pogue reminds me of something I ran into several years age at a called Charge Conference at the local church. The local pastor who, by his own admission, was not a whiz at organization was empowered by the DS to run the conference. Prior to the conference, a very specific item was published as being up for consideration; by the time it was mushed around in the conference I had the distinct feeling that what we actually voted on did not address what was initially presented. So why should GC be any different? As far as I am concerned the UMC contains too many good-hearted people doing the best they know how without an real consensus as to what we should collectively be doing in the first place. I have backed off from involvement in the local church for many reasons; but chief among them is a desire not to be one more random oar in the water paddling the best I know how; right now I feel I can best serve the church as simply being a head count in the pew and money in the plate.

  3. It was a disappointing opening session. Prayers continuing. God expects great things from us which are only possible if we treat each other with the love God gives each one of us.
    How I long for a more respectful way to work together!

  4. Curious who you view as the “minority” who were “nitpicking, posturing, petulant, occasionally disrespectful and unnecessarily contentious”?

    Or whether a large part of the problem is that the presiding officer was not well-versed on parliamentary procedure.

    A substitute was presented and then debate goes into all sorts of different directions instead of finishing the substitute. Finally, there is a vote on the substitute and it passes. That should have been much simpler but it starts, unfortunately, from the top.

    The iPad recognition system is also an invitation to abuse of discretion.

    • Not an either/or. Bishop Brown was not well prepared or supported. The votes indicated the minority, and the speeches indicated that the majority didn’t have responses to move us forward. And what was voted on was not well repeated or clarified. Always bumpy getting used to the process, but this was unusually messy. I am perhaps more cynical that we would not have encountered the waves of opposition, revision, refutation and resistance. My feeling is that the rules for this General Conference tried too hard to steer process and control that which is not controllable. When rules are political to begin with, you open the door to the kinds of reactions we saw yesterday.

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