Tis the season for electing General Conference delegations across our United Methodist denomination. This year represents my first opportunity to participate in the festivities. I’ve always watched the proceedings with great interest. But now I’m a part of them. A few thoughts are in order, as I’m wrestling with what my participation will look like. I’m dissatisfied with some of what I see and hear, and, as is often the case, blogging about it gives me an opportunity both to reflect in writing and to share my thoughts with others, for what they may be worth. I’ve begun to do that here and here earlier in the spring.
1. As I’ve written in the first post linked above from earlier this spring, I understand our work this year in voting for GC delegates more in terms of selecting delegates than in terms of electing representatives. I will certainly grant that the process carries with it a strong political element. Much of the time, from the looks of it, we seem to be electing representatives more than selecting delegates. The difference is more pronounced in the way each member of the Annual Conference (AC) brings her/himself to the task than in the outward appearances, though we must take care not to cross certain lines in our practice lest the process degenerate to the point of mimicking the poverty of current American politics, rather than striving for the Christ-honoring aim of holy discernment as his Body.
2. I resist the winning/losing, us/them paradigm. Of course I’m tempted to think in those terms, but am dissatisfied with them and am interested in discovering alternatives, difficult to conceive though that may be.
3. I recognize that caucuses w/in the AC live according to the winning/losing, us/them paradigm currently and must confess that regardless of my sympathies for this or that stance that they may hold or concerns we may share, their credibility diminishes with me in proportion to the level of winning/losing, us/them voting tactics that are employed. Though not all would be open to this, lists could be conceived of and interpreted as simply conversations about favorable delegation candidates on a macro level, comparable to conversations toward the same end on a micro level. Tactics beyond that quickly become more thorny and risk becoming manipulations of voting patterns to win a “right” outcome. A problem with this approach, however, is that it devalues discernment by the Body in favor of the craftiness of the winning party, thus losing sight of the truth that in some things, the outcome that is “right” necessarily entails a process that is “right” as well.
4. The alternative to the winning/losing, us/them paradigm (as I just mentioned) is the discernment of the Body paradigm. One draws primarily on political & competitive impulses, the other attempts to draw primarily on thinking about ourselves (and not only our issues) theologically, that is, to intentionally work at applying an ecclesiology we consider faithful rather than accept the one we are behaving ourselves into.
5. OBJECTION: This is naive. ANSWER: No, it is subversive.
Alright. There you have it. 5 of my thoughts upon my first Annual Conference voting for General Conference delegates. As with all members of the Texas Annual Conference, I’m ready to see how it all plays out this year.