Tuesday, May 15, 2012

There Are No Lines

Prevailing wisdom and philosophies do not cover all of a generation.  No, it is sadly and usually the loudest that are heard.  So in the following, this is not all inclusive or encompassing.  It is an attempt to explain why things, for some, are very confusing.  I know members of all these generations who get it.  I know some who don't.  All that matters is LOVE.  If you struggle understanding why Twitter is so popular, the following will help.

Color Inside the Lines (silent generation)

When I was in kindergarten, I remember Miss Mapes teaching us all "color inside the lines".  We sat at our desks (divided tables) working diligently to make sure that not one bit of color went outside the lines.  At the time of course, we were only given one coloring sheet so if we messed up, no second chance, no extra credit, you failed.  It was an exercise in discipline and framed the standards of the education we would receive from then on.  And that phrase continued to meet me in my work, personal and educational life.  The very tired phrase of "we've never done it that way before" comes to mind with this mindset.
That teaching, philosophy and learning carries many people through much of their life.  Just keep your head down, go along to get along, and don't rock the boat.  In a world with much certainty, jobs that lasted at the same company until retirement, families that didn't move 4-5 times while the kids were growing up, and a deep sense of community and trust developed over time, that worldview worked and help together the fabric of society.  It was the prevailing wisdom of the Silent generation.  Interestingly, no member of the Silent generation was ever elected President, and many of them have faded from the social and political world.

Color Outside the Lines (boomer generation)

In the late 1990's, while I was in grad school, a new phrase began to emerge.  That phrase was "color outside the lines".  There are several books that claim the phrase in their title, but I remember hearing professors use it frequently.  It was touted as the next great philosophy.  Bend the rules.  Live in the gray of the world.  The words both/and were lifted up as well.  This idea took hold and many pushed a can't we agree to disagree view.  Not only that, but it lifted up a kind of dualism of attempting to live in both worlds of two arguments.
This view comes from the Boomer generation.  Boomers grew up in a time of significant change in society.  Worldviews were shifting and changing with each new protest and dramatic political decision made in the 1960's.  There were several deaths of prominent leaders in the US that caused many boomers to question authority, purpose, meaning and the stability of the world.  They are known as the protest generation, although many of that generation moderated with age and became more like the previous generation in regard to work.
For many, "color outside the lines" was a revolutionary statement made from the Boomers to the next few generations.

There Are No Lines (Gen X and beyond)
In what appears to be an evolution of thought, which has been built upon the work of others, I would postulate something different.  How about, "there are no lines".  In a world that attempts to be bound by rules and control, there are no lines.  What kept us apart for many years is long since gone.
In a world of deep interconnectedness through the web, new connections and ideas can be assimilated and adapted immediately.  The edges are now all soft.
Generation X grew up in a very similar time as the Boomers, but with significant adaptation of new technologies.
Things are blending together so quickly, that there is not enough time to define it, other than to say, there are no lines.  And this new world, it is for sure and definitely NOT FLAT!
Stop trying to find the lines, follow the lines or color over the lines.
There are no lines.  Once you recognize this, you will finally discover the lines you see were self imposed.  Only try and realize the truth.
There are no lines.
The world is an empty canvass.  Make of it what you will.

Sadly many do not understand this and use rules and regulations to abuse those who disagree.  Many will attempt to understand, but try and merge a misguided and well- meaning version.  It won't work.

We are predisposed to repeat the past, unless we choose to change it.

Do we wonder why Gen X and the Millenials have slowly faded from church?  This is why.

Seek the abiding and magnificent love of God.  Receive it.  Share it.  Live it.  And please reject the rules based religions that bind you up, and keeps you from true peace and happiness.

Embrace the full love of God in Jesus Christ.

Go in peace and go with God.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

General Conference 2012- Final Thoughts- Disheartened, but Hopeful

What Happened?
It came.  It went.  Little changed.  With 8 million dollars spent on a global gathering of United Methodists, some interesting stuff happened.
The worship services and preaching were excellent.  The United Methodist Church is a global church.
We are growing in Africa, so much that resources are scarce.  It might be the best investment the UMC can make, and yet, I feel we did not do enough.
Most every change that was made has already, or will soon be, challenged and sent to the Judicial Council.

The big initiatives that would really help us
Set Aside Bishop- did not pass
Structure Change- passed, but ruled unconstitutional by Judicial Council
Lower Budget 5%- passed, but how will it work now with the Structural changes ruled unconstitutional?
Guaranteed Appointments- passed, but challenged
Annual Conference structure changes- passed, but will probably be challenged.

Personal Reflections

After watching the first week and half of GC, I became disheartened.  Not about the UMC, the future of the UMC, the church I serve or the Christians I know.

I was disheartened by the legislative swamp and bureaucratic mess that unfolded as a small group of people seemed to filibuster and challenge anything and everything.  Some people have become good at the wrong things.  That is one of my biggest fears in ministry.  I pray I never become good at meaningless and trivial things that do not bring about transformational change in the church.

We have a wealth of talented and gifted leaders in the UMC.  A small number of Conferences in the United States grow every year.  Some others are on the path to growth.  Most have been in decline for years and show no chance of growing.

Can a gathering of 1000 people agree on anything?  The United States House of Representatives is only 435, the Senate 100, speaking for 300+ million.


Roberts Rules of Order should be tossed out as a guiding document for how function in legislative session.  I have no idea what to replace it with, but we need to do something.

One thousand is too large a group.  Why not limit it to 500?

With Plan A, B and UMC, we still could not figure out how to move toward change.  Can someone come up with something that can pass a Constitutional challenge?

Do we have too many seminaries?  Many are in decline.  How about 72 hours for an MDIV (I will keep pushing this as long as I live)

Do our General Agencies do what they were designed to do?  Are they still relevant to making disciples?

Final Thoughts

We have a great need for transformational leadership at General Conference and in the Episcopal Office.  My prayer for all delegations is that when they vote for Bishops they would seriously consider the following-

Will this person help the church make disciples?
Will this person refocus the efforts of the Conference toward leadership and discipleship?
What is this person's track-record for making disciples and leadership?

Great and faithful leadership will help turn around the church.  We cannot continue to go in the direction we are headed, because within fifty years we will be no more.

Does the Methodist church still have something to say?  Is our expression of Christianity relevant?  I honestly and truly believe we have something relevant to say.  We have growing churches in Missouri. We continue to plant new congregations.  The United Methodist Church grew in Missouri last year.  It has not been easy, but it is possible with the right leadership in place and a well charted course.

I thank God I serve in Missouri.

Go in peace and go with God.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

General Conference 2012: Wesley Covenant and Guaranteed Appointments

With the many changes, discussions and legislation passed this General Conference 2012, I am reminded of the relevance of Wesley's prayer.

I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

Emphasis above is mine.

As stated on an earlier post HERE, I am rather indifferent to the change.  Or at least I was, until I started to see hundreds of comments from all kinds of clergy and laity.  I know there was a great deal of time and effort put into studying the change.  But, I wonder if we looked at how this would actually be lived out in each Conference.  How do we define effectiveness?  Does each Conference get to choose?  Does the Cabinet and Bishop define?  Maybe each Annual Conference can define.  What happens the first time that one person is held to one standard, and another person held to another standard?   Are there really safeguards?

Again, my hope and prayer is that I am, and will continue to be fruitful and effective in ministry.  And the day that I feel I can no longer be effective as an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, I will walk away.  No animosity or anger.  Just peace that I did all I could when I had the opportunity.

Go in peace and go with God.