Sunday, June 01, 2008

Why Stick With the UMC?

A conveniently ;-) anonymous comment noted that I seem fulfilled by ministry but that I'm discontented by the beaurocracy of the denomination. From someone who knows me only from reading my blog, "Anonymous" pretty well hit the nail on the head.

I do get pretty frustrated with the beaurocracy (which I've typoed "beaurocrazy" twice already... Freudian slip maybe?). I get frustrated at a top-heavy denomination where it sometimes feelss like the "top" believes that the local churches exist to support them instead of the other way around. I get frustrated at Robert's Rules of Order. I get frustrated in listening to the same gripes, same petty fights, and same arguments every year at Annual Conference, arguments which accomplish nothing (except raising the collective blood pressure of the attendees).

I get frustrated when pastors (or churches, or church employees, for that matter) complain that they never get return phone calls from the beaurocracy - their complaints aren't the problem; the lack of response is.

So the big question is: why don't I leave for the "fairer pastures" of a more independent church?

That's a good question; and the short answer is that I believe that God called me into the United Methodist Church. There are certainly negatives in this denomination (some I've listed and others I'll let you come to your own conclusions on), but there are positives, and I believe that the West Ohio Conference has been working on the positives.

I like being connected. When I was growing up, the only time I ever felt connected was when I went to church camp. It seemed to me that we (in my local non-denominational church) possibly tolerated other churches of our same non-denomination but we certainly did not tolerate the abomination that was denominationalism. In fact, I had the distinct idea that if one was not in our particular slice of Christianity, they might indeed not be Christian. I like the spirit of cooperation inherent in the UMC. Communion, for example, is open to anyone, regardless of denominational background, if they "earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another." This seems a lot more healthy than the alternative.

The clergy connection has been "forced" in our district (if not in our Conference) in monthly meetings with the District Superintendent (now with the Assistant DS); we've had a great breakfast monthly where we get to know one another, support one another, pray for one another, find out what's going on ministerially, find out what's going on on the Conference level, etc.

The connection has also been "forced" through "cluster" meetings between clergy. Apparently some have been able to liberally interpret what a "cluster" is in their context, and my first foray into this arena was a little less than stellar, but over the past year I've found friendship, accountability, and encouragement through my group. It's been helpful to go to district or conference events and actually know people.

Another way I've experienced the connection is through a Bible study that happens at another UMC. One day almost three years ago, Pastor Greg R invited me to their "worship committee" meeting - which was really a Lectionary Bible study. Through that, Greg has become a very good friend, as has Ed W, a retired pastor (who has some beliefs that are quite different than my own).

I experienced some of the good through some of the beaurocracy in the "Supervised Years program" (otherwise known as "Probationary Period" - everyone likes to be "on Probation" don't they?). Though I first hated that process, I met some really neat people in it, and some of them have become my friends. I've often lamented how hard it is to make friends, and the connection has made it possible.

This post has gone long enough - I'll post at another time about how I ended up in the UMC.


Amy said...

Don't you just love those "anonymous" comment leavers? Grrr...

Great post, Brian.

Anonymous said...

I also grew up in a non-denominational "generic" Christian church ... while I did not feel the same judgmentalism toward other denominational churches, I felt more lost by the fact that the church didn't seem moored by a strong foundation. The church seemed more easily swept into fads or trends ... it had an elasticity designed to gather in new congregants but ended up leaving the church without a strong identity (IMHO). As an adult, I sought out more traditional churches with set liturgy, e.g., Catholic and Lutheran.

Anyway, I don't know much about the Methodist church and whether it's doctrine is more traditional than what you grew up with, or whether that was something that was a part of your consideration at all.

In any case, thanks for the explanation.
~anon ;)

The Sister said...

Hey Anon, much to our mother ("Big Mama")'s horror, both Brian and his charming sister have ended up in much more "formal" denominations than the one in which we were raised. ;), Big Mama.
And while I certainly didn't aim to end up in a Lutheran church, it seems that's where the Lord called our branch of the family, and there we remain...

Rev. Dulce said...

Some of the forced connectialism is bad, (my term is "Cluster F***) but overall Methodism has been a good fit for my personal beliefs.