Think we’ve (Episcopalians) got it bad? Check out the Methodists

Tony Jones blogs a reflection on the United Methodist General Conference that took place a couple of weeks ago.

The eye-popping numbers: It cost $1500/minute!!! (I hope someone does the numbers for our own General Convention).

Will Willimon comments. Willimon’s warning applies to us as well:

My organizational guru Ron Heifetz speaks of the “myth of the broken system.”  Heifetz argues that all systems are “healthy” in that systems produce what those who profit from thesystemdesire.  Though the CGC can’t produce a complicated, large scale, two week convention, the CGC produces a General Conference that protects those in positions of power in our church.

Jones concludes:

All bureaucracies are good at one thing: self-perpetuation. They may be good at other things, too, but the propagation of the gospel is not one of those. Bureaucracy is good at distributing drivers licenses. But bureaucracies are bad for the gospel.

Restructuring the Church–the view from the United Methodists

So they’re having the same debate The Episcopal Church is having.

A blog post from an observer outside the meeting provides insight into the similarities and differences between the two debates, and the two denominations.

We might learn from this effort, which apparently got voted down, on how to go about ours. Apparently the plan was devised by outside corporate (!) consultants, gathered steam from the bishops and was supported by some denominational megachurches. It’s largely an effort to streamline authority, which almost always means increased centralization.

The blogger links to the musings of another Methodist, on matters of restructuring and other things. Among the points made:

  • You might be surprised at how quickly a notion, fad or trend can take hold in certain quarters of this denomination. The desire to immediately act on what some perceive as a good idea, although it may in fact be a fad, is what is meant by the need for “nimbleness” in restructuring.

  • You can triple the size of the general-church structure or you can wipe it out entirely and it will make almost no difference in membership gain or loss.

Membership growth has more to do with welcoming congregations that offer compelling ministries and good worship. There’s not enough of that. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.

I hope people in The Episcopal Church are taking notes and learning from the Methodists here. It’s not the first time they’ve had something to teach us.