Schlepping toward Charge Conference
Got my second (third?) nastygram from the West District Secretary regarding my "overdue" Charge Conference forms. She has informed us all that all Charge Conference forms must
be in TWO WEEKS before Charge Conference, and that NO forms will be received the day of the Charge Conference. She's a nice young lady and works very hard at her job, and I have no desire to be difficult, but this all makes me tired.
Consider: there are two kinds of information on Charge Conference forms. The first kind is of the action-item variety. There are decisions that are to be made at Charge Conference, such as approving salaries and electing leaders and certifying lay speakers and ministerial candidates. All of these items have to work their way through an array of local church committees (Staff-Parish Relations, Finance, Lay Leadership, Trustees, Church Council . . .). All this takes time. So once I get the Charge Conference date each year, I have to backdate to make sure we get all the meetings scheduled to do the deliberations that generate the action items in time to make decisions at Charge Conference. Which means, I really can't
get these silly forms done any faster than I'm getting them done, and nastygrams from the District office won't make them get done any faster, either.
The other sort of information on Charge Conference forms is the reportage that the Conference requires. What is your church plant insured for? How many missions teams did you send out and what did it cost you? What new members did you receive and how many died? None of that stuff is critical to have ahead of time; in fact, as long as it gets in to the Annual Conference before the end of the year, it's not going to make any difference to anybody. And since we're all supposed to be filing most of these reports online, it goes straight to the Annual Conference without our District Secretary having to do anything other than file her hard copies at the District office. So why should I bust my hump on these to get them in ahead of time while I'm still guiding the ones that really matter through the process?
Okay, that's the rational excuse for not satisfying her ravenous desire for forms. The other reason I neither speed up the production of forms nor plead for more time is more personal. You see, I don't work for her.
She probably doesn't realize that. And not only do I not work for her, I resent the demanding, imperious bullsh*t I have to put up with from Annual Conference and District staff. I get tired of syrupy sweet letters telling me I am "required" to do some "mandatory" event. The language of command has become natural to all these administrative types.
Well, I have been a pastor since 1976 -- before our District Secretary was even born, I'm guessing. I was ordained elder and admitted to membership in full connection in 1979. I am not an employee; I am a member. The Annual Conference is not the drones in Indy, but the clergy and lay members who constitute it. I am appointed by the bishop to do certain things in this pastoral charge, including oversee the preparations for Charge Conference. My work is typically well done and ready to go. I take it seriously, even preparing forms for Charge Conference. I certainly take it more seriously than the Superintendents I've had who think they're conducting a rally instead of a business meeting. All the real decision-making has been given into the hands of the local congregation, and there is nothing really to decide beyond the formalities at Charge Conference. Which brings many of us to wonder, Why do we need a Superintendent to show up at all?
Why not simply authorize the pastors to preside over their own Conferences -- or each other's? Why get bent out of shape and try to match some arbitrary schedule at all? As long as we get it done before the end of the year, what does it matter to anybody? What is the DS going to add to the mix to make our work go more smoothly or be more successful?
And while I have had the Charge Conference forms downloaded for a week or two now, I have had other things pressing on me at the same time. A child from the parish rushed to ICU in Indianapolis, as well as other pastoral needs. Calling on new families. Conducting discipleship programs for younger men. Working with youth. Teaching Sunday School for adults and leading Bible study. Writing sermons. Attending committee meetings. Writing a letter of reference for a candidate for Eagle Scout Rank. Family demands. Emergency dental work. It's not like I'm playing jacks over here instead of working.
Well, I'm a loyalist, so I'll go along with the charade. But I refuse to take orders from a secretary. Nor will I demean myself to make either promises or excuses. I simply ignore the nastygrams and get my work done. As the diplomats say, the dog barks, but the caravan moves on.