Reading the conversations on the Methoblog the last few days, I recall this little blast from the past:
General lack of trust within the Church was a pervasive and recurring theme in the majority of interviews. Lack of trust was expressed in many ways, for example, “between the pew and leadership”, personal distrust feeding institutional distrust and vice versa. Trust was cited as one of the most important challenges that the Church faces, it was cited as a force working against a vital connexion and it was cited as a root cause for under-functioning structures and processes of the Church. Sources of distrust ranged from “old wounds” to representative and/or protectionist behaviors and agendas that were not putting the broad interests of the Church first. Lack of accountability was also cited as a root cause of distrust – when people are not accountable for their actions and behaviors, they cannot be trusted. Interviewees related that trust and good intent was not presumed in relationships and frequently the opposite was true. Trust was often mentioned as a leadership issue – particularly in the context of power and authority. People are not trusted with power so they are not given authority – they are not accountable so they are not trusted with power and authority. Often mentioned was the observation that leaders themselves frequently do not demonstrate trust behaviors.
Three Annual Conferences in the United States gained members in 2011. Bishop Lindsey Davis was formerly bishop of one (North Georgia) and is now bishop of another one (Kentucky.) The bishop had some interesting things to say at the recent Congress on Evangelism.
I hope to find a transcript or video of his sermon at some point, but this story on the IRD site has several highlights. Here is one that I found worthy of chewing on:
Davis noted there’s “lots of conversation in our church about metrics.” But he warned: “We can’t metric our way out of our current reality.” Only about 20 percent of United Methodist congregations are healthy, he said. And we “can’t change the other 80 percent by requiring them to send in numbers. They will simply play the game.” Church revitalization entails “helping pastors to put together teams of their most spiritually mature laity.” Revitalization can only be from the bottom up and not top down.
Bishop Scott Jones pulls few punches in his call to action for United Methodist leaders:
After eight years of service as a bishop, I can testify that many parts of our connectional system have developed unhealthy patterns that detract from our focus on vital congregations. Bishops shy away from taking decisive action that would not be welcomed by the clergyperson. Cabinets want to be nice and compassionate to the clergyperson and not deliver unwelcome bad news. District Superintendents fail to build records in the clergyperson’s file that would support an administrative complaint. Boards of Ordained ministry function too often as the union bosses protecting incompetent colleagues.