Latest from “Call to Action”

Tuesday, the United Methodist News Service put out its latest report on the work of the “Call to Action” Steering Team. They give the bad news first.

The United Methodist Church needs to change its operations denomination-wide to address financial challenges and be more relevant in its ministry around the globe.

True enough. We have plenty of financial challenges. But I’m not so sure about relevance. It seems the harder we pursue it the less we have it.

But there is also good news.

Despite these challenges, many churches of varied sizes and settings have found ways to grow and thrive.

In other words, while some churches seem locked in a death spiral of decline, some seem to be doing ok.

I’m not sure why we needed to fund two studies to discover this. Are there any surprises, anything unexpected here, anything that isn’t at the least verging on a truism?

They get more specific:

The study indicated some areas where improvement is needed:

  • More clarity and understanding about the denomination’s mission, culture and values
  • Less perceived organizational “distance” between and among the foundational units of the church
  • Better defined leadership roles, responsibilities, and accountability; and improvements in trust
  • More standardized management processes and reporting systems
  • Utilizing opportunities for improved affordability and effectiveness

It looks to me like the proposed solution is a more efficient and authoritative bureaucracy. Sounds like the usual solution those with power offer. Something along the lines of, “We have a great system, we just haven’t worked it purely enough, had the right people in the right positions, or, the people at the bottom (or congregations, in this case) just aren’t getting it.”

I have not heard enough to convince me that what we need is more power at the top, either of the denomination as a whole or of our annual conferences. More power for those in power is not a commonly successful strategy for working out trust issues – unless the trust we seek is something that can be commanded (as if by “trust” we mean people at the bottom “doing what we expect them to do”).

I see nothing here about theological or doctrinal clarity and unity. Of course, that might clash with what’s happening at Claremont School of Theology right now, so we’d better stay quiet about that.

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