I haven’t heard a single delegate, lay or clergy, who has not felt that it’s time to restructure the general church. In fact, we in our personal, business and local congregations have already seen that need and started the process years ago. We’ve looked at every area of our individual and corporate lives to see what is necessary to move us forward and what excess baggage is slowing us down and now should be left behind.
I’m glad we have more than one plan being presented. It’s good to know that multiple bright minds are working on the project because we have to get this right. An organization that is in decline can actually hasten that decline and lead to its own demise if it makes the wrong decisions at this critical juncture. One thing is for sure. Whatever our decision, we will either get better or worse. We will not remain as we are.
As all of us have looked at the various plans, we all have focused on different things. I just have three things that are part of my evaluation process.
Is it simple and easy to understand?
Anybody can make things complex, but smart people take complex things and make them simple. We need a simple, streamlined structure that everybody can understand. Actually, none of the plans goes as far as I would like. If we were starting this whole process from scratch, we would have one building (rather than buildings scattered across the United States) that housed all the general boards and agencies under one roof with shared services from receptionists to computers. It would be The United Methodist Building where anyone in the world could come to meet our leadership. Are not all these people supposed to be working together anyway? Wouldn’t it be nice if they actually passed each other in the hall from time to time?
Does the proposal contain constitutional amendments?
One only has to look back at the 2008 General Conference to realize that passing constitutional amendments in Tampa, Fla., does not guarantee passage anywhere else. If the proposal suggests changing the denomination’s constitution, we need to think more than twice about whether the change is necessary and appropriate. There is a reason for the high bar to change the constitution. Even if we do, will this delay the process by waiting almost a year to the next annual conferences and then also cause the uncertainty of how that vote will play out?
Who at the table is voting?
I’ve heard a lot of concern expressed about who is at the table. Those concerns are very appropriate. I have the good fortune of sitting as a trustee on a university board. When a major decision is to be made about the university, we get all the wisdom and insight we can from the employees and the leadership of the university. However, when it’s time to vote, only the people who have no financial relationship with the university can vote. They only give and do not get anything in return. When I look at the table, I’m searching for people who unselfishly give to the church and have nothingtogain. They have no position, no real power; they are just humble servants seeking to do God’s will. That is the voice I’m most interested in hearing because they are truly looking out only for the good and future of our beloved United Methodist Church.
*Furr, a physician in Jackson, Ala., is conference lay leader and a General Conference lay delegate from the Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference. He also is one of three people delivering the Laity Address at General Conference.