Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Shake It Out: What Happened to the UMC?

Today has been rough. I could sit here and write for days about the things I am upset about, but it wouldn't be very productive. It will show some of what I am hurting about, but hopefully I will also be able to shed some light on the situation as God is trying to do for me.

I had to refer back to twitter to even remember all that happened. As many of you know one of the biggest pieces of legislation the UMC has been dealing with is the restructure plan for the church. I was on the General Administration committee all last week and watched the hours and hours of work my fellow delegates put in to coming up with a plan that many (including myself) felt was a good compromise. As you know, this plan was voted down along with all of the other plans. This morning a new plan was brought forth. It was in the DCA (Daily Christian Advocate) yesterday and had only been created over a couple of days. Now we were supposed to vote on this new plan called Plan UMC (go to for more info) when we only had a very short amount of time to even read, let alone understand it. Many people got up and argued that we need to do "something" because the whole world was watching (I don't know if I agree with that sentiment that the whole world was watching). While I agree that we do need to do something to revitalize our church, I don't know if I think restructure will help. Furthermore, if we are going to restructure, we need to take a careful look (as in more than a few days) at what this means and what effects it will have on our local churches (not JUST on the general church level). I do not believe that doing "something" for the sake of doing something will be successful. We cannot just put a bandaid called Plan UMC (or any rushed plan for that matter) on all of our churches that can easily fall off; there simply needs to be more care taken. My other issue with taking action on restructuring is that there is a daunting, fearful anxiety in the convention center. I do not this is conducive to making an informed, reasonable, logical, heart-filled, or God-filled decision. We need to take a breath and pause so we can actually feel the Holy Spirit moving through us.

The main part of this new Plan UMC that I, along with many others, did not agree with was the "Committee on Inclusivity." It was claimed by creators of Plan UMC (4 out of 20 were women, majority of the 20 were white) that this committee would do the work of GCORR (General Commission on Religion and Race) and GCSRW (General Commission on the Status and Role of Women). Currently these agencies exist in order to monitor our church and make sure those who are usually marginalized and not given a voice (women and people of color--in this case) are not forgotten. Both agencies also do a lot of important advocacy and work to minimize (and eventually eliminate) racism and sexism in the church and in the world. By getting rid of these agencies, they will not be able to do the necessary monitoring our church needs. You can say that the work will get done as much as you want in this "Committee of Inclusivity," but the new committee is not even a board; it is under a new board of GCSO (General Commission on Strategy and Oversight). This means that the "monitoring" of sexism and racism will get bogged down by other business and eventually forgotten. Furthermore, how is it supposed to do monitoring for GCSO when it is part of the board? More importantly, the General Secretaries of GCORR and GCSRW got up and spoke about how they do NOT want this and how this new committee would not allow their important work to be effective. (FYI the Gen. Secretary of GCORR tweeted that the implications of keeping these agencies separate would only be a 1% increase of funds). Creators of Plan UMC had previously said that these General Secretaries along with "everybody" (whatever that means) were included in the creation of this plan. This was a blatant lie. People from MFSA were not included and the neither were the General Secretaries of GCORR and GCSRW (according to their own words).

When the motion to amend Plan UMC by keeping GCORR and GCSRW separate agencies failed, I lost a lot of hope for the UMC. This vote clearly showed that we do not believe racism and sexism are important issues or even exist anymore. I spent my entire college career learning about the issues of racism and sexism and how they are rampant in our society. I spent years learning about how we can work for social justice to fix these very important and relevant issues. All of that just went out of the window. I do not even know anything else I can say about that except that it is a slap in the face to many who a part of the UMC.

 After a couple more minor amendments, the new restructure plan was passed. However, because of the possibility of constitutional and financial effects, it was sent off to the Judicial Council and General Commission on Finance and Administration (GCFA). So UMC, get ready to embrace a whole new church. All I kept saying to myself was "what did you do with the church that I loved?"

 At this point I did not really know how to feel. What happened, happened. We have to accept it and figure out where to go from here. The votes that kept going through always came out 60% on one side and 40% on the other. When it came to the vote on supporting our hurting Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, we at least agreed to create a Resolution to do so in our Social Principles. However, when it came to taking action, we once again stalled. The issue is that Israel is oppressively occupying Palestine and taking over more and more of their land. One great (in my opinion) way to take action against this oppression and support Palestine (which we just resolved to do) was to divest from big corporations supporting this occupation: Caterpillar, Motorola, and HP. I just want to clarify that in no way am I an expert on this issue. I am getting my information from fellow delegates and with that information it makes sense to me that divestment is the answer. Also, those who had witnessed in person the horrible and violent oppression of Palestinians gave testimony saying we NEED to divest because negotiations from these corporations were not working. In the end, specific wording to divest was removed from the petition and much softer language passed, not creating a definite statement that the UMC supports divestment.

As I said yesterday, I am upset about the decisions made, but I am even more upset about how they were made. There were blatant lies said, manipulation going on, and backdoor deals being made. I know, I know this is church politics, but what happened to the church part? This is not the loving, grace-filled, Jesus-following denomination I know. However, all we can do at this point is "Shake it Out" ( and trust in God.

I want to conclude with a conversation I had with a hotel guest (not from general conference) on the elevator last night. She asked me what I was here for because she saw my name tag. I explained that we as the UMC meet every four years to vote on our social beliefs, doctrine, and discipline of the church. She looked at me for a minute, the elevator dinged, she stepped out, and as the doors were closing said, "Does Jesus get a vote?"

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