My current problems with The UMC are no different from what they've ever been. No doubt The UMC has changed some -- and not for the better, I think. But I've changed, too: I'm less elastic than I was. Like an old tree that's stood many storms and looks to stand for ever, some day I may face a wind that shall blow me down.
I think that, at bottom, I was always more in love with what The UMC says of itself (as in The Articles of Religion and other historical documents) than in what it is (as in, one more large, bureaucratic religious body). The idea of the Church is what excites me. Helping to make that REAL -- to offer somebody new life through Xt and a set of relationships that can be what we say they should be, that's what turns me on. Meanwhile, those who love The UMC for its stand on this or that bore me. The more The UMC tries to pump up denominational loyalty, the less loyal I feel; the more it lifts up what the Church should be, the more excited I get.
This attitude makes me a conservative, but not necessarily an evangelical. I'm just orthodox -- Traditional (with a capital 'T'), not conventional.
So now let me list my fears, that I may face them.
* I fear more incompetent leadership that will waste my time and energy. I don't mean to imply that my time and energy are of greater value than anybody else's; it's just that, the older I get, the more precious what time and energy I have left become. This doesn't mean I wouldn't welcome a really groovy opportunity, but I grow impatient with the current system. All in all, I'd rather retire than just ride the itinerant merry-go-round for 14+ more years.
* I fear the adoption of heresy, the excusal of apostasy, the too-convenient compromise with sin. The UMC has done better the last four years than I ever gave it credit for, but we ain't outa the woods yet. I continue to wrestle with staying in/getting out over these issues.
* I fear that I will be more and more out of place as the Boomers remake The UMC. I, too, am a Boomer, but like all the other Boomers, a law unto myself. I value tradition. I'm not against contemporaneity -- just not interested in throwing the baby out with the bath water. Our new ordination system appalls me. It's not enough to quit over, but I don't like it, and I imagine it'll get ever worse.
(Specifically, I am disgusted by the re-ordering of our ministry into two equal Orders of Deacons and Elders, and the loss of the old system of double ordination. [I was ordained Deacon in 1977, then Elder in 1979.] I think we could have salvaged the Order of Deacon without removing it as a waystation on the path to Elder's Orders. And all of this has made of the ordination process a mere survival course. We are not making better clergy by this method, just eliminating all but the few who are hardy as cockroaches.)
* I fear my own dwindling strength. I am aging in place. I value peace and quiet more. I am less tolerant of the many distractions (both organizational and personal). I have less energy to spend, and want to make it count. I have spent all these years to get to the point where I really, really know what I know -- and I want to make my strokes count for something, not just kick sand out of the rough. And my chronic fatigue means that I can only make a limited number of strokes any more; therefore, every stroke must count.
No conclusions, here, but maybe some clarity.