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Annual Conference Afterthought

I spent some time thinking about the amendment voting at the Arkansas Annual Conference which concluded yesterday. One thing that I am amazed about this morning – and should have been while we were in session – was the implicational ignorance we shared over the amendments covering the worldwide church. The lead delegate, District Superintendent Rodney Steele, had the unenviable position of having to answer nearly every question asked from the floor about these amendments. He did a great job of remaining as objective as he could, but his frustration was written all over his face. When asked for clarification about a wording or what the implications would be if we passed a particular amendment, his answer became “No one knows.” It was an honest answer.

Andrew Thompson wrote at his blog yesterday:

The confused discussion on the Worldwide Church amendments proved to me that their defeat is a good thing. No one was clear on what the amendments, once adopted, would lead to in terms of church structure. And the possibility that we could see increased bureaucracy through a new layer of conferencing was distasteful to people from all over the spectrum. We need to reconcile the differences between the way the American church is treated in the Book of Discipline with the way the church in the rest of the world is treated, but this proposal is not the way to go. These amendments will most probably fail. And when they do, I hope the church as a whole is able to go about the discernment over our ecclesiastical structure in a more coherent way (and frankly, using a proposal that seeks to streamline our hierarchical structure and reduce the complexity of our bureaucracy rather than do the opposite).

Increased bureaucracy. That’s a phrase that should strike fear in the hearts of all United Methodists and cause wailing and gnashing of teeth. Andrew hits the nail on the head – if we’re going to realign and restructure the church, we ought to vote on it after all the studies have been completed and questions have been answered. The only way an “aye” vote should be cast for structural changes is if we have made our connection simpler rather than more complex as Andrew so aptly stated.

Decreasing complexity would go a long way in eliminating the need for any denominational leader to have to say to a body of people “No one knows.”

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