The following is a blog I wrote for Methodist Federation for Social Action, the organization I am serving with here at General Conference.
As the Young Adult Legislative Coordinator for General Administration, my day was spent in committee listening to presentations, discussion, and debate on the three restructuring proposals. Because these conversations are filled with complex language and business concerns, it is easy to forget that this work of restructuring our church is truly the work of reimagining who we are as the diverse people of God. So, with that being said, who will we choose to become? As one watching these conversations unfold, I would like to highlight two key questions of identity that I think are implicit in these proposals:
1) First, in the morning presentations on the three proposals, there was a significant contrast between an emphasis on life and death, especially between the Call to Action legislation and the MFSA plan. When the Call to Action team was asked by a Central Conference delegate if they had conducted research on the vital congregations of the Central Conferences, they answered that they had focused on the “declining, diseased” congregations in the United States. The MFSA team, on the other hand, emphasized dialogue with Central Conference delegates and a commitment to draw on the vitality that already exists in our church. Remembering the Episcopal Address by Bishop Weaver, my hope is that the new structure of The United Methodist Church will reflect not a fear of death, but our calling to be people of the “Resurrection Revolution,” living into Christ’s abundant gift of life.
2) Second, these decisions about structure are decisions about whose voices will be included and excluded in the leadership of the church—most significantly, the voices of the rapidly growing Central Conferences. The Call to Action legislation not only failed to study the vital congregations of the Central Conferences, it also fails to create abundant new spaces for these new people to serve as leaders of the denomination. The MFSA plan, however, proposes that 40% of general church leadership come from the Central Conferences. Furthermore, MFSA advocates for leadership from every region (Central Conference/Jurisdiction), in contrast to the language of “proportionality” of other plans, which—for example— could leave all of Europe with only one delegate. Seeking to become a church that welcomes all people, my hope is that we will order our life together in such a way that all voices are included and valued at the table.
As the committee work continues, I hope you will join me in praying not for one plan to prevail over another, but for the structure of our church to reflect who we are and who we are called to become as The United Methodist Church—the wholly inclusive, beautifully diverse body of Christ.