Remember that old question? If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to observe it, does it make a sound? Sometimes I feel like this is a metaphor for some of the things that happen at General Conference.
Our Book of Discipline and our Book of Resolutions are constantly expanding. If this keeps happening, we’ll probably have to have multiple volumes of both. We keep passing resolutions, adjusting language, and generally feeling pretty good about both.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it just feels like we still think that we’re living in the United States circa 1950, when Time Magazine published articles on our bishops (see here and here). I consistently hear about living in a post-Christian world until it comes time for General Conference. Then we pass legislation and wheel out petitions, all of which are consistently ignored. If we add an entry to the Book of Resolutions and no one is there to read it, does it matter that we’ve officially decided to increase our tithes on mint by 2%?
Don’t get me wrong. Even though it seems that we have a quadrennial bout with pessimism, I’m less skeptical than some of my friends and colleagues. It’s just that I sincerely believe that we should be trimming the fat, digging through the strata of bureaucracy, and focusing on mission more than ever. Instead, it seems that we spend far too much time churning out statement after statement and developing proposals until they reach the sky.
I suppose that’s one reason I’m encouraged by our focus areas. Making new congregations a priority is far overdue, but it is essential and encouraging. Thanks be to God, it is something tangible. This is something that will make a real difference in the daily lives of women and men wherever these congregations are planted. Our focus on reducing poverty and poverty related diseases in the name of Jesus Christ is also encouraging. These foci are not simply statements or a position. They are actions that will tangibly express the love of Jesus in the world.
We do have a future and a hope, but we have to remind ourselves constantly that this hope is in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It isn’t some vague disembodied hope in the human spirit. It isn’t nostalgia for the good old days when Time had a reporter at General Conference and congress actually cared what the mainline churches were saying. It’s a hope embodied in Christ, enlivened by the Spirit, and lived for the glory of God!