Thursday, October 19, 2006

World Church Stuff

While I'm trying to figure out how to enable comments for this blog, let me refer you to a fascinating article from UMR about the global nature of the United Methodist Church. This month, the Judicial Council will be determining how many delegates will be allowed to attend General Conference 2008 from the new Cote d'Ivoire Annual Conference. If you recall, that conference joined the UMC in 2004 -- with a huge number of members, meaning it should be entitled to a full proportional number of delegates. But the original agreement stated that Cote d'Ivoire would only have two delegates at the first General Conference.

It's not a merely procedural issue. If Cote d'Ivoire brings 50 or so delegates to Conference rather than two, they suddenly have a huge voting bloc and will determine major policy issues for the whole worldwide church (like membership and ordination rights for homosexuals, for one thing).

But, as the story points out, none of the Central Conferences pay apportionments into the system (except to the Episcopal Fund). Thus, this issue also means that the use of the church's money could largely be decided by peoples who didn't give the money in the first place! And, yikes, we have a potentially flammable situation!

Money, sex, power -- all the biggies will be up for grabs at General Conference 2008!

From my perspective, working in a Mission which hopes to be an Annual Conference someday, and dreams of sending delegates to General Conference and participating fully in the life of the United Methodist Church, I can say that I earnestly hope and pray that power and decision-making will be shared between all the members of the global church, and the sooner, the better!

Speaking from this particular place, the Methodists of Cameroon have wisdom, gifts and talents which the rest of United Methodism needs. The voice of Cameroonian Methodism needs to be heard -- and soon!

Tiny small-town, white-frame Methodist chapels in Iowa need the voice and conscience of people like lay evangelist Guillian Arrey, who raises pigs out behind N'Chang United Methodist Church in Cameroon. Wealthy, mega-church suburban Methodists of Dallas need to witness the fervent prayers and weekly fasting of lay preacher Monique Bassagog, who leads a cell group in Yaounde. Church committees and Sunday School classes need to listen to the songs of Therese Nomo and Alexis Godonou, who write melodies and lyrics which betray a simple trust and faith.

This is what old-school missions couldn't comprehend. In the past, churches thought in terms of "sending," and of "mission fields," and what the "poor lost" needed to receive from the "well-fed found." But these days, it has become clear that God has run far ahead of us and our presumptions.

The senders are now receivers, and the mission field has been overturned and relocated.

Mission runs two ways now. Guess we better get used to it -- even in our church politics.