I wonder if this would go down easier if we called Rule 44 “Rule Hank Aaron”? This was Aaron’s number in baseball for 22 years, Naming it after a beloved American icon could help us all feel good about it. Right now, differing view points are using the group discernment process proposal to point fingers and accuse others of trying to promote a “progressive” agenda. The concept of giving everyone voice and opening up the channels for listening have gotten lost in the rhetoric of suspicion and ulterior motives. I am not saying hidden agendas do not exist or even influence the thinking, but whatever benefits and advantages we may gain from Rule 44 is in serious jeopardy.
Much of what I have heard in criticism of the process is that it is untested and imperfect. Uhm, duh. A brand new process needs testing to be tested, and I have yet to engage in a perfect process of human communication. The bottom line here is Rule 44 will only work as well as the people allow it to. When we commit to make something work well, it generally does. When we pick something apart and refuse to give it a fair trial, it fails miserably. This is where we are: give this our best shot and see where it takes us. The only way it will fail totally is to never give it a chance.
Categories: General Conference
One of the rarely understood realities of the sociological research into cultural change known as the Diffusion of Innovations is that openess to innovation or change follows a standard deviation or bell curve among any cultural population, large or small.
The implications of this are that only 16% – innovators and early adopters – are generally interested in changing the status quo. Plus, Early adopters favor change when it provides significant positive advantages – a case that has not yet been made.
Therefore a change, Rule 44 or otherwise, brought to a body for a vote, will typically be defeated 85% to 16% – or less. So that’s my prediction, heartbreaking as it is – nothing much will change.
Information on how to overcome this systemic resistance to change is described in Geoffrey Moore’s book Crossing the Chasm and Everett Rogers’ classic Diffusion of Innovations. The actions of the 16% typically prevent the changes that they seek due to poor communication. Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline also has some insights to offer.
Thank you Dan for your wise insights.
Someone recently pointed out to me that if Rule 44 was going to be used in connection with other issues facing General Conference, such as the episcopacy or guaranteed appointment, the outcry would probably not have happened, or at least not be quite as loud. But there’s a great deal of suspicion when something like this is supposed to “fix” the most contentious issue we’ll be discussing in Portland. Those who came up with the idea should have at least seen it coming.
The sad thing is, no one expects this to “fix” anything. We have ongoing difficult conversations that do more damage than good. We cannot merely walk away from these conversations. It is imperative we learn better ways to talk and disagree. Rule 44 is a response to a request. The fact that we can’t even engage in a trial in non-combative ways says a lot about the trust level in the church today — especially about those most committed. The question is: just what are we committed to, individually and as a body?
As an observer from the pew, I agree with Creed Pogue; many of the comments I have read supporting Rule 44 are along the lines that so far the “regular process” has not “worked” when it comes to the question re same gender relationships. Truth is, beginning with GC1972 every General Conference has come up with an answer re same gender relationships which means the process is not the problem. The real problem is those people that are not willing to abide by the decision that has been handed down multiple times and many of those same people, which includes people in leadership positions, are the same ones who have declared that it is time for the church to finally come up with the correct answer. I am now also concerned that after mucking around with this new process for two days, “leadership” is claiming that delegates are confused because they do not understand that this process does not have to be used at all–so why are delegates confused? Since lack of trust has been identified as a major problem for the United Methodist Church, I find it disturbing that “leadership” would even try to change how things are done; As far as I am concerned, this type of procedure has to start with a certain amount of trust which is clearly not present in the UMC. Trying to change how General Conference works is not going to fix the lack of trust.
Bless you, Dan. You get it!
The problem is that a new process is being proposed because “leadership” is unhappy with the results in past General Conferences. This completely ignores the underlying reality that a majority does NOT exist to change our ordination standards or chargeable offenses. So, the process will not matter unless the rationale is to create something that forces changes to go through.
Others have pointed out that when trust is low then arguments about rules become louder.