The issue of clergy job security will be front and center next month when delegates to the quadrennial General Conference of The United Methodist Church considers a proposal to end "guaranteed appointments" for elders in good standing. The church's Study of Ministry Commission says clergy job guarantees cost too much money and can focus more on the clergyperson's needs rather than the denomination's mission. On the other side, many clergy express fears that eliminating job security may lead to arbitrary dismissals. A major concern is that clergy will be judged based on their performance at "toxic" congregations, churches with so much internal conflict that it is difficult for any minister to have success.I've been reading for years about clergy burnout, toxic congregations and obversely, toxic pastors. I've also watched as our society fragment - Cokey Roberts spoke about this a couple of months ago at Berry College. There has been a loss of collegiality and congeniality in American society. Used to be that politicians across the aisle - Republican and Democrat - would debate for hours on the floor and then go to parties with one another, get drinks after the debate, go to church with one another. I understand that in the last few decades, that's not so true anymore.
Pity that. We have become a solitary society whose elbows rub when we are madly texting other people across the country and instead of talking to and being in relationship with the person we are rubbing elbows with. And then we get irritated at them for taking up so much of our space and bandwidth.
Society is changing. We are in a post-modern world in which truth is voted on by the majority and Wikipedia is truth. Truth by consensus - is it really true? Our children don't believe in black and white anymore, just shades of grey.
So when we are watching the church, are we not just watching a smaller version of our society? As a society in general are we not getting more toxic? Why are we so shocked that the church is more toxic as well?
We have an opportunity for change. We the church have the opportunity to really do Holy Conferencing - for Communion to occur. This General Conference let us do that - leaving our own toxic natures aside, let us embrace all those things which are good. Let us Do No Harm, Do Good and Attend God's Holy Ordinances.