David F. Watson has written a post suggesting that the 2016 UMC General Conference be closed to everyone but delegates for the purpose of accomplishing something constructive, which did not happen at the 2012 GC. Drew McIntyre and Joel Watts have agreed. Jeremy Smith has written a dissent (to which Joel has responded).
I know that no one is waiting on the edge of their seat to read what I think, but I side with Jeremy on this. I do not believe we should close the floor of the General Conference, though I won't appeal to Jeremy's tired, worn out, "straight white male" shibboleth. Identity politics has become all too predictable and all too uninteresting and is always used to close down argument-- the irony of this in reference to the closing of the General Conference should not be missed.
I can see no reason to close the sessions of the GC because it will not achieve the desired results of accomplishing anything. Dysfunction is dysfunction. Our system is set up to fail just like Capitol Hill and the politics of Washington DC. There will be no holy conferencing-- whatever that means-- it will be power politics at its worst with both sides pushing and shoving and plotting and conniving to get the upper hand. Our entire system is designed to have a winning side and a losing side and designed to instill dislike and suspicion among those who disagree.
I have a third way proposal-- let's just not have General Conference in 2016. GC 2012 was nothing more than a huge waste of money that could have been used for some real and true kingdom work in this world. What evidence does anyone have that 2016 will be any different? If anything, we are getting strong hints already that it is going to be worse. I would be willing to guarantee that if we did not have General Conference in 2016 we wouldn't miss it and it wouldn't change the way any local United Methodist church does ministry; and we would have saved several million dollars with which we could feed hungry children who could care less about the UM institution.
But alas... I am dreaming. Of course, there will be a General Conference in 2016. The Book of Discipline demands it and too many in the UMC have too much of a stake in the preservation of the institution of which General Conference is the central reflection.
But if we are going to have it allow me to suggest that we change the name from General Conference to General Congress-- at least the name change would accurately reflect the dysfunctional nature of what happens every four years.
May God have mercy on those poor souls unfortunate enough to be elected to go to Portland in 2016 for ten days of nonsense.