aefenglommung (aefenglommung) wrote,

Maundering about with clergy matters

Got a CD from the bishop's office yesterday, hyping the Imagine Indiana process. That's the effort to design a combined Indiana Annual Conference from the existing South and North Indiana Conferences. Yawn. I'm sure this matters at some level of faith and practice, but I just can't get excited over it. I only care about two parts of it: what it's going to do to Scouting Ministries, and what it's going to do to clergy benefits.

I care about what happens to Scouting Ministries because South Indiana has a radically different structure in this regard from North Indiana, and it shows. We're one of the top Conferences in The UMC in regards to Scouting; North isn't even on the radar. That's because we have a freestanding committee with independent accountability to the Annual Conference, while they're buried up there under the moribund hand of UM Men.

Meanwhile, merging the benefit programs of South and North is a ticklish business of equity governed by a denominational rule that we have to go with the better program in every regard. Since South's insurance has been going downhill relative to North's, I suppose my personal situation might improve with the merger.

But really, my ability to work up any degree of passion over this whole deal is lacking. I just can't see it making much difference overall. For a while I thought that this was because I'm nearing my retirement decision, but I think it's the same alienation I've felt my whole career. I belong, but I don't belong, if that makes any sense. I mean, I'm as loyal a United Methodist as anybody, but I can't say I feel like I'm part of a movement or a band of brothers or anything. Attending Annual Conference is not a family reunion for me as it was/is for many clergy, and I don't see any parades I want to march in out of the various cause-oriented groups active in the connection.

I feel some of the same distance in ecumenical discussions. I spend almost all my on-the-ground ministry in the Bible belt, where most of my interlocutors are evangelicals or mainline Protestants. Compared to them, I'm pretty "high church." I accept them as brothers and sisters in the Lord, but I don't care for their ecclesiologies and their sacramental views. But then, most of the people I actually talk religion with are my on-line friends, most of whom are RC, EO, or Anglo-Catholic. We get along swimmingly, but I'm about the only guy in the conversation who's not part of the Apostolic Succession Club (which is as tiring as being the only guy at the Scouting do who hasn't been to Wood Badge -- same thing, just different beads).

I have given up on finding or creating the perfect organization. I believe the Church is created "wherever two or three are gathered" in Christ's name; certainly, I have seen this happen -- usually only by twos and threes -- wherever I have ministered. Like Taliessin in Charles Williams's Arthurian poems, I see the Company spring up about those who have the gift of leadership the Company's existence requires. They don't particularly have to organize it, they just have to be aware of it happening and care for those who come seeking the comforts of the Company.

When I do retire, I expect this phenomenon will continue. And that will be Church enough for me, I think. I will always do ministry: that's just who I am, what God called me to be. But I will leave behind this job, and with it, the demand that I care about re-orgs, or the burden of who can mean what to whom, ecclesiastically speaking. I think being the Hermit of the Chapel in the Green is a good final career objective. Those who come seeking me can take what they will of what I have to offer.

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