As goes Iraq, so goes The United Methodist Church?

I read in the Waco Tribune-Herald today that President Obama visited Baghdad.  Here is a relevant bit:

Iraqis “need to take responsibility for their own country,” Obama told hundreds of cheering soldiers gathered in an ornate, marble palace near Saddam Hussein’s former seat of power.

The United States is (and probably has been) encouraged at the potential of Iraq taknig more and more responsibility for its own security.  Autonomy, sovereignty, self-determination are optimistic words and goals – arguably, fromt eh beginning of the effort to remove Sadaam Hussein from power there.

My question is do we really want Iraq to take responsibility for their own country?  Are we, the United States, truly and honestly ready for self-determination in Iraq, or do we only really want this if things go our way?

What if Iraq, in taking responsibility for itself, chooses to ally itself with Iran? What if Iraq votes to rename itself “Al-Qaeda Haven”?

What most of us really want is for Iraq to take responsibility for itself and continue in the direction of democratization that we have planted there.

Now for the “So Goes The United Methodist Church” piece of the post.

The United Methodist Church has been losing members ever since it became the United Methodist Church. For the more than 2 decades I have been an adult United Methodist, there has been more and more talk about renewal, change, restructuring, redirection, etc. Some accuse all of these efforts as various forms “of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

The real question is, do United Methodists really want change?  Are we willing to face change beyond change that we maintain control over?

Specifically, for example:

  • We say we want to recruit more younger clergy.  Is our vision that these younger clergy, should we find them, “earn their stripes” or “pay their dues,” or would we be willing to hear what they have to say now?
  • We say we want to “position ourselves for the future,” yet a pastor receives applause at a clergy meeting for talking about his congregation cutting ministry so they can afford to pay apportionments.
  • Dr. Elaine Heath suggests drastic change in The Mystic Way of Evangelism, including bi-vocational clergy and radically rethinking church.
  • We are launching aimed ““the primary target audience is 18-34 year olds who are not familiar with the language of the church but have a deep yearning to connect with God.” To what extent do we expect potential newcomers to learn “the United Methodist Way” before welcoming them into church leadership?

United Methodists, I ask: are we indeed willing to relinquish control of our denomination that it might change, knowing that as long as we are in control God is not?

7 thoughts on “As goes Iraq, so goes The United Methodist Church?

  1. Thanks for the post. I clicked its link from Wesley Report. I do believe it is change or die for most of our churches. The larger structure and the attitude in the pews points to “die”

  2. New is not necessarily better. We should continue to look at and probably change most of the things that we do as an institution. However, we need to have a coherent message to encourage people to stay and join.

    Obviously, young people aren’t the future of the church, they are the church today. But, acting like everyone over 40 doesn’t exist anymore is just crazy. Tolerance and ecumenism isn’t a theology.

  3. Creed, I couldn’t agree more: new is not necessarily better. (and, BTW, since I’m 45, I don’t advocate pretending everyone over 40 doesn’t exist anymore)

    On the other hand, there is a tendency that many of us have as we spend decades within particular systems, to get invested in the way things are and keeping them that way.

    I do not believe it is fair or wise to advocate for change, renewal, etc., and all the while expect the change and renewal to fit comfortably within the old wineskins of 1950’s era federal-style bureaucracy.

    I (would like to) agree that young people are the church today, but are they? are they equally represented and heard at board meetings an on the floor of Annual Conference?

  4. While, during the 4 years I went to Annual Conference, we didn’t always take advantage of eating our meals with the clergy and lay leaders- this cannot be completely the student’s faults. Most of the meals I did attend with “everyone else” pretty much bored me to death, because even if you were sitting at a table with the “adults” they really didn’t do much to help continue the conversation. I was with one of our leaders in the CTC last month and he could not for the life of him remember our report. Given- most don’t remember any report. Still- you think when there is one presentation by a young person, people would listen. Apparently that’s not always the case.

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