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COMMENTARY: Let the process work

by Jay Voorhees
April 30, 2012

About an hour ago I was sitting in the lobby of the lovely Courtyard hotel that has been home for the past week when a journalist friend came through.

“There are all sorts of rumors about the new Plan UMC proposal that’s in the DCA tomorrow morning,” she told me. “The word on the street is that the powers that be are going to try to present it tomorrow afternoon.”

“Are they going to suspend the rules?” I asked, for the rules of the General Conference clearly state that any business before the conference must printed in the DCA before consideration of the item.

“I don’t know,” she admitted, “but they were trying to find out which bishop would be presiding in the afternoon because they want to present at that time.”

Of course, this is an unsubstantiated rumor that may have no basis in reality. Given the secrecy about the proposal, which will only be revealed to the masses tomorrow with the release of the DCA, and the emotional investment made by this conference in restructuring, it is natural that rumors would be flying since only a select, chosen few know the actual details of what is to come. And yet, I can imagine some in the group arguing for moving quickly to consider the legislation in order to keep the forces of opposition (usually identified this year as the boards and agencies) from developing counter arguments to foil their efforts.

Still think we don’t have trust issues?

I know that I am just a simple country pastor who isn’t a mover and shaker in United Methodist political circles, but my 24 years of attending General Conferences lead me to offered some unsolicited advice to the Plan UMC team.

Let the process work.

I know the process seems broken at times. I know that you have wonderful ideas for helping our church become more efficient and that we need to move quickly because so many other things to consider are dependent on this new vision of the church. Giving folks time to think, read, pray, and yes, even conspire is risky, and it would be better to get this done with so that we can move on.

But here’s the thing . . . one of the main critiques of the restructuring process so far . . . has been the lack of transparency in the process. Trust is a deep seated problem, and is only built with time and understanding. Giving folks adequate time to review what you are offering and work through in their own heads the options communicates that you trust the body enough to take seriously the proposal and engage in the prayer and discernment needed to discern the will of God. To try and rush through the legislation without adequate review comes off to me at least as a cynical sign of your lack of trust in the rank and file of our delegates.

Here’s the other thing. In my 24 years of attending and working at General Conferences, I have seen any number of attempts to push quickly, trying to bypass the rules to get something through, and more often than not it goes badly. I don’t really know enough about this body to make a prediction, but past General Conferences usually do not appreciate attempts to ram something down their throats. They have their own pace, and can react quite negatively if they feel that they aren’t being given the time needed to consider a proposal. I fear that you might undermine the success of your legislation simply due to the ire of the body.

So, let the process work. Twenty fours hours isn’t THAT long of a time to wait. Give the conference some time to digest what you are offering. Let them ask you some questions in the hallway during the breaks. Let them live into the possibility, so that this proposal will move from being YOUR proposal to THEIR proposal. The 24 hour rule was created for a reason, and you will be well served by recognizing and honoring that decision of the General Conference.

But what do I know. I just a country preacher.

Have a good night!