The UMC's quadrennial meeting has now concluded. From reports of friends, here is my take on all things United Methodist.
Forty-one percent of the delegates were from outside the United States. They contributed materially to the debate despite language barriers. Our Central Conferences have come of age and do us proud. They are now in a position to teach us a thing or two, especially about how to grow the Church.
We approved $5 million for theological education in Africa. This petition originated in the Indiana - North Katanga connection. In the end, we didn't fund it through the Ministerial Education Fund but rather through the World Service Fund, but we funded it.
GC kept the balanced statements about sexuality we have in the Book of Discipline, despite ugly tactics from those who keep insisting that we change them. It takes a great deal of patience and love to deal with this every four years.
We cut the quadrennial budget of The UMC by 6%. That's the first general church budget reduction in UM history. I would have liked to have seen more cut, but I applaud the sense of responsibility the delegates showed here.
It will now require 60% approval of General Conference for a resolution to be included in the Book of Resolutions, our denominational grab bag of policy and opinion. It would have been even better if they'd adopted a sunset provision, but at least this book shouldn't keep ballooning at the rate it's been going.
General Conference has eliminated the Guaranteed Annual Appointment of elders. In one sense, this is meh, since there really aren't as many safeguards as you might think for preachers whom the powers that be don't want. On the other hand, it is notable that amidst the accountability crisis of our denomination, we removed safeguards for elders while keeping bishops and General Secretaries of agencies firmly ensconced in their cushy seats.
We reduced pension payments for retired clergy 20%, effective immediately. For someone who is figuring and re-figuring his ability to retire, this is worrisome. And for everybody who works in our system, of every age, we have once again demonstrated that loyalty doesn't pay.
Some of the things that get said at GC are simply indefensible, especially the soft bigotry of the progressives regarding our African brothers and sisters. Complaints about their conservative voting record are bad enough; but when Americans start bitching that we pay 99% of the bills and don't want to share power with the Central Conference churches, it gets ugly. Progressives talk a lot about equality and power-sharing and globalism, until you threaten their First world, white privileges. Fie and shame.
This Conference wanted to do a major overhaul of the whole Church. There were at least two, competing restructure plans. The General Administration legislative group got all bolluxed up and wound up unable to agree on anything to send to the floor. After that fiasco, some UM heavy hitters cobbled together a minimal plan in order to be able to say that we accomplished something this quadrennium. On the last day of GC, the Judicial Council announced that the restructuring plan just passed was unconstitutional. Paturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus, as Horace said: "Mountains will labor, only to give birth to a silly mouse." At the last minute, all they could do was pass some down-sizing petitions proposed by the smaller agencies, one of which removed the President of NAUMS (which is the position I hold) from the Board of Directors of the General Commission on United Methodist Men. I have been voted off the island. Well, my term ends in June. I will be glad to step down. And if I ever show up at a major UM Men do again, you can butter my butt and call me a biscuit.
We have removed the ability of individual United Methodists to petition General Conference. Petitions will now have to come from Church Councils, Conferences, Agencies, etc. It is true that GC has become clogged with tens of thousands of petitions, often repetitive in nature, but still, one of the things I've been proudest to tell my confirmands each year is that they are joining a Church that pledges to listen to what they have to say. Each of them has had, ere now, the power to petition their Church's highest body. Sadly, no more.
We rebranded Lay Speakers as Lay Servants or some such nonsense. A fair amount of this renaming syndrome occurs in every GC. It gets old and it accomplishes nothing. On the occasion of this Addled Conference, it is emblematic of the whole meeting just concluded.