Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What next?

I have been away for a month. Hardly a day goes by that I do not sink into some kind of whirlpool about the denomination I love. But I have not taken much time to think about "what next." The point of analysis is not (at least for me) to engage in some kind of "blame-storming," but is an essential step in figuring out what to do. Here are some preliminary thoughts.

1. I really don't think we can do any better at this time and I don't have much more energy to invest in this. I agree with Dr. Medley that we can't spend all our time on reorganization. However, I think this common sentiment deserves a little more reflection. I can't name a single church that has stopped ministry because we were engaged in reorganization. While the work was a distraction to regional execs, I don't know any region where regional ministry was put on hold while we worked on reorganization. I am not intimately familiar with the workings of IM and NM, but I doubt that their ministries were hampered by reorganization work. If restructuring is important, then it must be someone's priority (and priority is not the same as "exclusive activity"). In my opinion, that begins with the General Board and the staff of the General Board.

2. Assuming this is the best we can do, it is clear that we must (1) make adjustments where we can based on what we have heard and (2) do a better job of making a persuasive case for the change. I hope there is some careful gathering of information and reflection on what happened. We don't have a good track record of listening to things we don't want to hear; and we tend to emphasize minority points, especially if they coincide with ours. I think we can do better.

3. I think the major adjustment that must be made is full transparency on the part of IM and NM. The future of these organization IS part of the discussion. Their proposed bylaws need to be "on the table" of the General Board awaiting approval immediately after the Biennial adopts new bylaws.

4. While broad-based information is necessary, the practical reality is that voting delegates at the biennial are the ones who count in making this decision. I don't believe there is any way to avoid intensive on-site information, Q&A, etc., designed specifically for the voting delegates. 600 people in one room watching a PowerPoint won't do it. There are ways to engage small groups to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak at the same time that expressivists do not dominate gatherings.

5. Start living differently. The question was asked during the business session (and has been asked in other places): What do you want to do that you can't do now with our present structure? What is keeping the General Board from behaving differently? What is keeping the boards of IM and NM from behaving differently? We don't need a bylaw change to have a Mission Summit (does anyone remember "Seek It"?). The issue is our willingness to to make those things happen (again, what happened to SeekIt?).