October 27th, 2009

how long

Pardon me while I vent

I finally got around to downloading the forms for Charge Conference today, and I am truly appalled. The sheer amount of useless paper being peddled by the ever-more-distant bureaucrats who run our Conference is insane. As I said many years ago on the floor of Annual Conference, in reference to a silly program being pushed by our then-bishop that required us to submit out all kinds of data several times a year,
In a large, bureaucratic organization, the way the people on top of the pile make themselves feel that they're accomplishing something is to get the people on the bottom of the pile to make paper fly.

Or, as I said to my then-DS some years ago when he asked me why my answers on some form were so short and uninformative,
In general, forms tell you more about the people who design them than the people who fill them out.

You may quote me.

All this is not to say that I resent providing information and being made accountable. I am willing to do whatever is required of me. What I resent is the sheer waste of my time on the part of Superintendents who are no longer willing to do the job the superintendency was designed for. In effect, nobody is minding the store, and all this paper is a substitute for the personal supervision that the DS is supposed to be providing -- used to provide, routinely.

Meanwhile, as the Annual Conference gets larger and its leadership more divorced from actual conditions in the churches, more e-mails and more paper and more demands are rained down from the Olympian heights onto the peasants below. Aristophanes's image of Zeus and the sieve is very apt in that regard.

Snapshot of pastoral ministry

Amid increasingly challenging circumstances, EFUMC has done pretty well, but we're beginning to scrape the bottom now and then. This has rattled some people. That could be healthy, or it could be very counter-productive.

Basically, if people are stirred to invest themselves in their church and bring others to it as something they love, then the challenging circumstances will function as a spur to their devotion. If people panic and start looking for simple solutions -- meaning, ones that will work automatically or which will postpone the great and evil day -- then things will get worse before they get better.

I think there is every reason to be hopeful, but it is certainly very stressful. All I can do is speak the truth and love the people. God will take care of the rest.