How Much Change?

One of the most insightful comments I heard this week was from someone who said that we are like a patient who knows he has cancer, but just doesn’t want to have the surgery done. I hear no one disputing the facts, but lots of discussion about how best to respond.

One of the tweets I read this week said that people should recognize that support for Plan B and its version of restructuring the general agencies does not mean opposition to change. The author of this remark is quite correct.

However, all persons should recognize that the three major proposals for restructuring the general agencies differ primarily in how much change we need. Plan B is, in my view, a small step in the right direction. The Connection Table proposal is a big step in the right direction.

The crucial question for our work through the general agencies is alignment. The most powerful image in Adam Hamilton’s presentation Wednesday night was the individuals in kayaks competing, heading in different directions and sometimes colliding. The alternative is one team rowing one ship in the same direction, working together.

Our general agencies are staffed by good people who love the church and seek to make it fruitful. Many of us who watch their work have concluded that they suffer from being siloed. There is a significant amount of duplication, acting at cross purposes, operating alone and thus the effectiveness is much reduced.

The most important change the General Conference should make is to combine 8 agencies into one under one General Secretary. In this way we can maximize our fruitfulness in increasing the number of vital congregations.

Most of the support for Plan B is not focused on fruitfulness. Supporters do not argue that their plan will do a better job of increasing the number of vital congregations. They do not make that argument because their plan is focused on two objectives. First, they seek to minimize change by preserving as many silos as possible. Second, they worry about two much power invested in too few people.

We must always pay attention to the concentration of power and appropriate checks and balances. I hope the legislative committee moves to one board that is large enough to address these issues. However, it is time for our church to focus on the adaptive challenge and chose the maximum amount of change. We must stay focused on fruitfulness and effectiveness for our mission.

Two other considerations should be laid to rest. Some Central Conference delegates worry that the one board will reduce their resources and relationship to the general church. The CT and IOT did not make it clear enough that all of those relationships will continue. I believe they will even be more effective. Programs like Imagine No Malaria will be stronger and more fruitful.

Some have called the Call to Action a power grab by the bishops. This has always been inaccurate and a false, fearful response to change. The Call to Action has not given new ongoing powers to the Council. Instead, it has called for the Council as a group and individual bishops in their areas to do their work better and with greater accountability.

I tweeted yesterday that all who heard Adam Hamilton’s presentation Wednesday will go home changed. Even those who disagree have now seen the choices before us. We may choose the lesser change by adopting Plan B. That, despite my misgivings, is a step forward. But more change will be coming in the future.

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