Once again Bishop Willimon speaks the truth. His words remind me of a plaque I have that reads, "For God so loved the world, he didn't send a committee." I have only quoted excerpts here. The link to the entire article can be found at the end of this post.
General Conference in Tampa made history as the most expensive ($1,500 per minute!), least productive, most fatuous assemblage in the history of Methodism. Sunday evening's "A Celebration of Ministry" fiasco was a metaphor for our nearly two weeks at church expense: four hours of belabored supplication by the General Commission on Status and Role of Women, five Ethnic National Plans, Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century, United Methodist Men, Girl Scouts, Africa University and a number of other agencies I can’t remember. A subtheme of that long night: even though we can't cite specific fruit, please don't force us to change or to expend less on ourselves.
Even after suffering this abuse, General Conference succumbed to the agencies' pleadings. In a post-GC blog, Mike Slaughter (who with Adam Hamilton eloquently—and futilely—warned GC that we must change or face certain death) told the truth: "Our denominational systems continue to resist change by protecting archaic structures. From our seminaries to boards and agencies, institutional preservation was a strong resistant influence throughout GC. Entrenched organizational bureaucracies resist accountability …"
My organizational guru Ron Heifetz speaks of the "myth of the broken system." Heifetz argues that all systems are "healthy" in that systems produce what those who profit from the system desire. Though the CGC can't produce a complicated, large scale, two week convention, the CGC produces a General Conference that protects those in positions of power in our church.
"Want to insure that nothing will change and no one ever asks, 'Now what exactly does your board produce for the advancement of the kingdom?' We can give you that—General Conference, Tampa, 2012."
Cheer up depressed bishops! Having been resoundingly rebuffed by General Conference, bishops are now free to focus upon their annual conferences and those local churches and productive clergy (many of whom are too busy and too impatient to be delegates to GC) who are responsive to episcopal encouragement for risk-taking, visionary leadership.
And the next time one of you has the temerity to whine about waste at General Conference, the loss of a couple of generations of young Christians, the ineffectiveness of a general church board or agency, or the infidelity of Methodism in retreat I will say, "I share your concern. It's a shame you weren't in Tampa."
The good news is that the mission of Jesus Christ will not be defeated. With us or without us, he shall get the church he demands.
You can read the rest of Bishop Willimon's editorial in the UM Reporter, here.