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Monday, July 1st, 2013

Time Event
2:36p
The beatings will continue until morale improves!
I just sent this e-mail to my District Superintendent. I'm sure all my clergy colleagues in the Indiana Conference got a similar message to the one I received today. Perhaps you all feel as I do. Maybe some of you could say what I've tried to say better. Maybe if enough of us say it, the Conference will find a more gracious and fruitful way to conduct its business.

Dear [DS]:

Once again, the Annual Conference (this time, through the Cabinet) uses the language of command instead of exhortation. In the e-mail I just received from [the District Administrative Assistant], it says,
The cabinet has identified a new criteria [sic] for charge conference attendance. Each church is required to send no fewer than 5 people (one clergy and four laity) to represent the church at charge conference. . . if you have fewer than 5 persons in attendance, you will not be able to complete any charge conference action and will need to attend another cluster conference with the amount of people required.
I don’t suppose anyone thought to check the Discipline? That book says, in Paragraph 246.6, which treats of Charge Conferences,
The members present and voting at any duly announced meeting shall constitute a quorum.
In addition, I would guess that incorporated local churches might have additional, binding legal standards which could be in conflict with the new policy.

I’m not trying to be difficult about this, but I don’t get where a DS has the authority to not conduct business if fewer members than hoped for show up. Nor do I get where the Cabinet has the authority to tell a DS he or she doesn’t have to follow the Discipline.

I agree that it would be a fine thing if five or more people showed up for Charge Conference. Anything I could think of that would increase attendance I would be glad to do. But threatening them with not attending to their business if they don’t turn out the numbers is not the way to increase attendance.

I realize that it is entirely possible that the stern language used in the e-mail is really intended only to emphasize how important attendance at Charge Conference is, and every DS is hoping that he or she won’t have to say No to some congregation that shows up with only four people. But in that case, the language of command is counterproductive. Nor is this a single case; more and more, the Annual Conference addresses pastors and churches in the language of command.
It is required. Mandatory. You must.
Will this correct the problems addressed, or simply make them worse? Someone once said at some pastoral ministry seminar I attended, “you can drive cattle, but you have to lead sheep.”

I will close this message with the customary sermon illustration. Back when I was in seminary, I was talking to our then-Dean, whose personality was torqued about a turn and a quarter too tight for safety, IMHO. The topic was chapel attendance, which was pretty poor that semester. He said that the obvious solution was to require attendance. I replied that better chapel services would bring in more people. Somebody took my suggestion (though not because I was suggesting it), and behold! attendance increased immediately. The Dean left at the end of the semester (why, I don’t know).

Loyally yours,

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