Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday Night Live

And the Winner Is…
It was a race to the finish. The Call to Action/Interim Operation Team (CTA/IOT) plan was an odds-on favorite, with Adam Hamilton as the charismatic front man, months of advance PR, and a slick multimedia presentation.  The church is in crisis! We’re declining! We must do something about it! Here’s the answer!  It was hard to resist a buy-in, even though we all had questions and general suspicions. Suspicion might be too strong a word. No one suspects an out and out conspiracy – as though some power-mad bishop is waiting to emerge as the “set-aside bishop” and mwah-ha-ha rule the church. But people have been uneasy about a 15-member General Council for Strategy and Oversight. Even with a 45-member Center for Connectional Ministries and Advisory Board to elect them and watch over them, 15 seems like an awfully small number for a 12 million member denomination. How could our diversity possibly be taken into account in all of those decisions? People have also been uneasy about the speed of the proposed change.  
And probably a lot of other things, too, as right out of the gate, the CTA/IOT plan was running neck and neck with Plan B, a second full-out restructuring plan put together by an unofficial group of people from across the connection. Plan B seeks to correct what it sees as representation issues, liability issues that could come from consolidating assets of merged agencies, and the power of the bishops, which were somewhat enhanced in the CTA/IOT proposal. 
In the General Administration committee, Plan B was almost immediately chosen as the substitute for CTA/IOT proposal, which means that by the rules of the GC, the committee picked one of the proposals to perfect. Plan B.
The MFSA plan seems to have stayed even for a while, with some of its good ideas being adopted. Honestly, I kinda liked the MFSA plan, which skips the 15-member Council in favor of a 45 member council, groups the agencies more or less into the 4 focus group areas (can you say EMT?) and otherwise made sense to me.
So round and round they all raced this week, with subcommittees amending amendments to amendments and debating them in front of an increasingly amused and concerned audience.
But when they all rounded the corner to the home stretch (which was 9:30 tonight for everyone) it was Plan-B-With-Amendments in the lead with CTA/IOT 2 heads behind. MFSA keeping up with a steady gallop. But OH –  here comes the CTA/IOT With Amendments (aka Uniting Our Church) which spurred forward to challenge the lead. Plan B With Amendments surged forward, tripped and couldn’t finish the race. The original CTA/IOT tried to make a comeback, but was bumped by the original Plan B. You think you’re confused?  By 9:45 pm, when we walked in to see what was up in the only circus left in town, NO ONE KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING. Even the authoritative Twitter feed was mis-reporting.  There was no majority report, so no one could make a minority report.  

So no recommendation goes to the floor. It is sad, really, as there is no disagreement that we need change in size, flexibility, and focus. And a lot of people put in a lot of time.  However, as I understand the process, there are still ways for them to get their proposals to the floor.  Keep praying.
In other news, Church & Society B took the UMC several steps back from being advocates for Reproductive Choice – voting to remove us from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. This will go before the plenary next week.
The Divestment Resolution from the Holy Land Task Force received some serious alteration in Financial Administration. It’s barely the same document. In its current form, it will be an excellent tool of diplomacy for better relations with the Jewish community, but isn’t close to the strong action item that was proposed.  I doubt we’ve seen the end of this one.   
Not much in the way of good news tonight. Let me try to end with some more hopeful shout-outs. Lots of Cal-Pac people are here – who knew?
* Can I say how together MFSA has been? Richard Bentley, Janet McKeithen, Mary Larsen, and a host of others have provided non-stop advocacy for international delegates and organizing for an inclusive church.
* Lisa Gay Santiago is here as the President of the National Association of Filipino American United Methodists (NAFAUM).
* Cynthia Abrams is in action as a member of our delegation and staff person for the General Board of Church & Society. Her tobacco legislation passed the Church & Society B committee tonight.
* Alice Knox of San Diego State’s Campus Ministry is here for a book signing.
* Conference Treasurer Archana Carey is here present and accounted for.
* Preston Price has his usual place on stage as part of the General Secretary’s staff.
* Past Treasurer Dan Gara also made an appearance.
* Nestor Gerente & Krista McVey are here as a pages.
* Monalisa Tu’itahi is here as a member of our delegation and director of Pacific Islander National Caucus of United Methodists.
* Ana-Haydee Urda is here as a member of our delegation and monitor for Metodistas Asociados Representado la Cause de los Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA).
* Mary Elizabeth Moore is here as a member of our delegation and as the Dean of the School of Theology at Boston University and part of the Association of United Methodist Theology Schools.
* Marjorie Suchocki is here as a member of our delegation and part of the Worldwide Church study team.
* Ran into Allison Mark monitoring for Asian-Americans.
* Saul Montiel, our GBGM Border Missionary offered a presentation.
* Saw Sione Veikoso across a crowded room.
* Saw 2 people I recognize from CFA but I don’t know their names.
* Tom Griffiths is here to offer a Judicial Council training.
* Prof. Jack Johnson, Helena Titus, and a host of CST students.
* Jerry Campbell is here as the CST President.
* Prof. Helene Slessarev-Jamir will be appointed to the University Senate. 
* Bishop Charles Jordan is here – volunteering as a helpful parliamentarian.
* Kelvin Sauls is here doing all the things he does.
* Rosemary & Bob Davis are around.
* Nan Self is doing whatever she does.
And of course, Bishop Swenson is here hanging with the other Bishops.
Your delegates – Tom, Molly, Cedric, Tricia, Mele, Ken, Jo Ann, & Leanne get a break tomorrow and then head into a challenging week of plenary sessions.
Your 1st reserve members Norma & Frank will be here all week. And your other friendly adjunct members, Mark, Tonya, and Paige are departing this weekend (or early next week).
It’s a party, y’all.  If you like your party with plenty of parliamentary procedure.
I move that we rock on.
Stay hopeful,

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