aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Breaking up is hard to do

The modern corporation was born in the Renaissance period, when merchants would form a “company” to spread the risks of a trading voyage. Once the ship returned (or didn’t), the company dissolved. A company would form for each voyage, and people would opt in or out depending upon their assessment of risks and opportunities. And then, suddenly, a “company” became an on-going institution with shareholders. Regardless of the outcome of each voyage, the “company” continued on. In order to maintain this ongoing existence, the company (not just each shareholder) had to own assets, both financial and material. The company – now called a corporation – could act as a person, signing contracts and being sued in court. Our modern world had begun.

Those calling for a division of The United Methodist Church are not wrong to do so, but they have to understand that the whole-UMC-shebang can’t just dissolve itself and let its constituent parts divvy up the assets. The whole has an on-going existence, with rules and obligations. It can’t vote itself out of existence without following its own rules, which would tie the process up in constitutional amendments and whatnot.

Therefore, the easiest way to effect a division is for one part or another to pack their things and leave. In an amicable division, the part remaining should be generous in equipping them for their separate enterprise. But somebody needs to inherit the assets and liabilities (and the burden of the bureaucracies). So, which will it be: the progs or the trads?

The trads, I think, would go easily and joyfully, leaving the progs to stew in their own juices, except for one thing: a feeling of obligation toward our overseas brothers and sisters. The Africans, Eurasians, and Filipinos – especially the Africans -- like being United Methodists. It’s a winning brand for them, and they’re growing. Which means the trads are more or less committed to staying and trying to manage the whole remaining, rather than just leaving the Africans and the progs to get along the best they can.

The progs – at least, the radical ones – would also, I think, go easily and joyfully, especially if the deal were sweetened a bit. The trads are prepared to be generous in this regard. The problem for the progs is that at least half their numbers are the people who call themselves “centrists.” The centrists are slow-motion progs (they accept same-sex marriage and gay ordination, but they don’t want them right now, everywhere). But the centrists also account for the overwhelming majority of bishops and bureaucrats. The most important thing for them is to preserve their positions of power and leadership. They will try to hold together untenable coalitions of the unwilling to that end. This complicates cutting any sort of deal with the progs.

I don’t know how these tangled relationships sort themselves out in the end. But somebody has to cut the Gordian knot. My hope is that leaders of all the various groups manage to come to terms before the deadline for submission of petitions to General Conference 2020.

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