The Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church has upheld guaranteed appointments. This was the news that my Bishop shared during a clergy meeting on Sunday. He had received a tweet that the decision had just arrived. When I got home I stumbled upon this news in about every Methosphere that exists. It is big news to UMC-nerds and completely pointless to about everyone else, including the majority of United Methodists.
Is this decision surprising? No. It is just another target to point at and scream foul at a dying system that doesn’t want to change? Maybe. Is it the end of the world and the sixth sign of the return of Christ, (the seventh being Hurricane Sandy)? Yes! Okay not really.
There may be some clergy out there that are breathing a little easier though. Now they can continue their lack of commitment to the Kingdom of God and simply coast to retirement, no matter how many years that is away. But I think those are far and few between.
So what does this mean? Really and truly nothing. At least for a couple of years until the discussions, petitions, plans, and arguments start to happen again as General Conference 2016 comes into view.
Andy B. has a great post over at Enter the Rainbow. I liked what he said:
Because in the meantime, people and communities and congregations already are changing, in spite of the hairball. Or they might be orbiting around the hairball, drawing on its gravity in order to sustain forward momentum. This is why I’m not discouraged by the Judicial Council’s decision this week. They are going to do what they are going to do, functioning in a system exactly as it is designed. You cannot blame them; they are bound by the system in which they exist.
John Meunier also has a great discussion on what it truly means to be an effective pastor, which is at the heart of this discussion I think.
With the failures or successes of General Conference (depending on what side you are on) and now this verdict from the Judaical Council all points to what the Book of Discipline makes extremely clear. In ¶ 201 and ¶ 202 it defines the definition and function of the local church, respectfully. “The local church provides the most significant arena through which disciple-making occurs…Under the discipline of the Holy Spirit, the church exists for the maintenance of worship, the edification of believers, and the redemption of the world.” (¶ 201)
There is no talk of the General Conference being the source of the redemption of the world, that comes from the Holy Spirit and the local church. For true change to happen to my beloved denomination we cannot expect it to come from the top down. Instead it will have to trickle up from the local church level. It will have to be so infectious that it cannot be ignored any longer. The ‘system’ will have to change not because of committee/conference votes and church politics lobbyists but because at its core it already has.
I’m have never been nervous about losing my job security because the Kingdom of God hasn’t come into fulfillment quiet yet. It is my job to help my congregation live into its function and definition. Therefore change will then have to trickle up.