Why should we leave, when we have the votes? the traditionalists ask. Why don't the disobedient people leave? If I had my druthers, that's the way it would turn out. But I don't have my druthers, and upon further reflection am not even sure my druthers would please me.
Consider the Indiana Annual Conference. I have speculated before over which side (centrist/progressive or traditionalist) would muster a majority if it came to a forced choice. The proposed plan requires a 57% vote, but still. It would be close. Painfully close. But let's say we did it. The traditionalists muster 57% of the voting membership of the Indiana Conference and vote to join the new trad church as a body. What would be the results of that?
First, we inherit all the bureaucracy and the overinflated lease on our conference HQ and a whole bunch of non-performing congregations. Oh, and half the clergy want to leave. The next several years of managing the Indiana Conference would be one long misery. And what would we gain? The only thing I can think a new start-up conference might like to have would be a nice church camp, but we could get by without one. If the trads fail to muster 57%, or decide not to try, the centerprogs get the joy of managing the decline.
This doesn't mean that I'm eager to leave, or would do so without regrets. But if you've got to eat a frog, it pays not to stare at it too long beforehand. One big swallow is what it takes. And then you're on to the exciting job of building all new networks of ministry. I'm sure finances will be a struggle for a while, but the faithfulness of the clergy and laity will make amazing things happen.
Looking ahead (once GC 20 is in the books), the big thing is, Who will present the options to the congregations of the conference? Will ordinary UMs be given the chance to hear the pitch to join the new trad church, or will our leadership try to prevent congregations from considering the possibilities? Even with the doors wide open, what misrepresentations and roadblocks will be put in the way of those interested in the question? We've taken a major step -- a positive one -- but there are still trust issues to be addressed.