Sorrows of Werther
Werther had a love for Charlotte
Such as words could never utter;
Would you know first he met her?
She was cutting bread and butter.
Charlotte was a married lady,
And a moral man was Werther,
And for all the wealth of Indies
Would do nothing for to hurt her.
So he sighed and pined and ogled,
And his passion boiled and bubbled,
Till he blew his silly brains out,
And no more was by it troubled.
Charlotte, having seen his body
Borne before her on a shutter,
Like a well-conducted person,
Went on cutting bread and butter.
-- William Makepeace Thackeray
This is Thackeray's sendup of The Sorrows of Young Werther, the overwrought, semi-autobiographical novel which made Goethe's reputation.
Restructuring the General Church is something that was a big deal last General Conference. In fact, Gen Conf passed a laundry list of constitutional amendments intended to restructure The UMC on the global level. Every one of them was roundly rejected by the Annual Conferences.
What was submitted to the Annual Conferences last time was a complicated and expensive plan that would have separated the overseas United Methodists from American UMs in ways that would be more likely to concentrate power in the hands of American liberal church leadership. The rank and file of UMs, all over the world, said NO. Nevertheless, something must be done.
I see two issues that need to be addressed.
1) Our 13 General Agencies are too bloated, too expensive, and too separated from the local church. The basic answer is to starve them of money. Give them only minimal apportionment money to operate on, and make them raise the rest of their budgets. If people believe in what they're doing, they'll give to it. if they don't, then they won't be able to take the Faithful's money and blow it on stuff that scandalizes said Faithful. GCUMM already operates this way. They complain about it, but I think it's good for them. In order to do what they do, they have to stay connected with the locals who pay the bills.
Some agencies, of course, do this as a matter of course. The UM Publishing House (including Cokesbury and Abingdon Press) is a money-making enterprise, and has been since the 18th Century. (The profits of the Publishing House are used to support pensions, and have since the inception of the operation back when Bishop Asbury was running the show.) In order to stay in business, they have to offer the people something the people are willing to pay good money for. While the other agencies aren't (by and large) selling products, it's still a good principle to live by. If what you are doing is supported by the people, it will prosper.
2) The balance of power between US and overseas United Methodists needs to be addressed in a more equitable way. Making the US one of five Central ("Regional" under the failed Global Initiative) Conferences is not the way; making the four Central Conferences equal to the five Jurisdictional Conferences IS. (Although first, I would eliminate the Western Jurisdiction and reduce the number of Jurisdictions in America to four.)
That would give us eight bishop-electing jurisdictions, four in the US and four outside the US. I would rotate General Conference among all eight of them equally. And I would begin a long process of providing more direct participation in the programs and assets of the General Church (pensions, especially) among all eight jurisdictions.
Along with giving true equality to overseas UMs, I would start bringing missionaries from Africa to America. The Church is growing over there, and it's dying here, and money has little to do with it. The Spirit is with them, and we need their leadership to bring us alive again.
April 10 is the birthday of both my father and my daughter. What do you get the man who has everything? A grandchild born on his birthday, of course.
Anna is now 31 years old, and I am soon to replace my late father as "Grandbear." And I hope to see the rocking chair I got Deanne that winter soon used for another generation.
I've got to be up betimes in the morning, so here's tomorrow's poetry post a little ahead of time.
The Sycophantic Fox and the Gullible Raven
A raven sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie,
Or, maybe, it was Roquefort.
We'll make it any kind you please --
At all events it was a cheese.
Beneath the tree's umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
"J'admire," said he, "ton beau plumage,"
(the which was simply persiflage.)
Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used:
A rooster that is bound to crow,
A crow that's bound to roost;
And whichsoever he espies,
He tells the most unblushing lies.
"Sweet fowl," he said, "I understand
You're more than merely natty,
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from Götterdämmerung!"
This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded;
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the "Jewel Song" from Faust.
But gravitation's law, of course,
As Isaac Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese its force,
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.
I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation,
He said one brief, emphatic word,
Unfit for publication.
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered "Tut."
The Moral is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it's after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner, too.
-- Guy Wetmore Carryl