So yesterday afternoon I am sitting in my office, grading papers and taking care of administrative chores related to the end of a semester. I take breaks to read General Conference-related stories and watch bits of the live stream from Tampa.
At a certain point, I say to myself: “Self, you’ve devoted a lot of energy the past two weeks to keeping up with all this General Conference hullaballoo. Put together a final blog post and be done with it. The fat lady is warming up and delegates are heading to the airport.”
But just as said fat lady was getting ready to take the stage for her grand finale, the Judicial Council issued a startling ruling that the Plan UMC restructuring proposal was unconstitutional on a number of fronts. Plan UMC, for those of you just waking up from a two-week nap, had emerged as the conference’s centerpiece reform action. And as the sun was getting low in the sky on the conference’s last day, a unanimous decision from the Judicial Council had effectively gutted it. The fat lady was asked to sit back down for a few hours.
You can see the text of the Judicial Council’s ruling at this link.
The General Conference came back into session in valiant fashion after supper last night, attempting to salvage some of the spirit for structural reform by reducing the size of the governing bodies of a number of the general boards & agencies of the church. That’s not the broad structural reform outlined in Plan UMC, but it will result in some cost savings and, perhaps, in some streamlining of those agencies’ work.
I can only imagine how dispirited many of the delegates must feel at the major restructuring work not being accomplished. But perspective is key on this point, and it’s worth remembering that the major work of the church will never happen in large scale conference settings. It happens locally, with committed Christian believers worshiping, praying, studying, serving, and working in their own communities. That is the arena in which true church reform needs to occur.
Many thanks to the delegates from all over the world for their dedicated work — both in preparation for the General Conference and during the conference session itself. And may God carry you safely back home, where you can finally get some much-needed rest.
For further reading:
1) A final wrap-up news story on the General Conference from Sam Hodges at the United Methodist Reporter can be found at this link.
2) Joey Butler from United Methodist Communications has penned an informative summary blog post on the GC2012 Conversations site that outlines some of the more consequential actions taken by this General Conference.
3) You can read all the GC-related blog posts on this website that I’ve written on this website by going to this page that includes them in reverse chronological order.