Minority Report was a spellbinding futuristic thriller starring Tom Cruise. The General Conference version of a minority report, I imagine, is going to be far less exciting. Today concludes the work of the legislative committees at General Conference. Thanks to friends who are delegates I’ve been able to learn how some of the legislation is fairing in committee. I received word last night that proposals to create an additional Conference which would encompass the United States church were narrowly defeated. These proposals (though they all handle it a bit differently) would organize the U.S. churches as a “Central Conference” on par with the current central conferences which are composed of all non-U.S. churches. One of the hopes of this sort of change would be to allow greater autonomy for United Methodist in the different parts of the globe. So much of the United Methodist Book of Discipline is dominated by things that only apply to U.S. churches so our global churches are often operating by different rules because their local contexts need other kinds of guidance. On the surface this seems like a logical change. The U.S. church and other global churches seem to be organizationally on two different tiers. Making the U.S. a Central Conference would allow the Book of Discipline deal with global issues, and each Central Conference could organize around local issues and concerns. Of course, like pretty much every conversation at General Conference, the concern is what this might mean about the church’s stance on human sexuality. Some are also concerned because this would essentially add another layer of bureaucracy.
A proposal to make the U.S. a Central Conference was defeated in committee, however, there will be a minority report. When legislation is presented to the plenary (I’m basing this on a lot of assumptions, the reason I’m headed to Portland is to see how all this really works) there is a majority report which represents the wishes of those who voted in the majority, and there is a minority report if there were enough dissenting votes. Even though this proposal was defeated in committee, it still has a chance to be approved by the whole body of General Conference.
I’m torn on this proposal. It makes sense that we re-structure to become truly a global church. At the rate that our Asian and African congregations are growing and the rate that the U.S. church is shrinking there will soon be more United Methodist outside of the United States than inside of it. It might be better to organize globally now before this becomes the reality. Unfortunately the trust level seems to be so low. Political posturing and outright ecclesial disobedience seem to be our modus operandi these days. I pray God’s Holy Spirit will work to bring about a spirit of humility and raise this level of trust.