A bad.hack (read more about it here) is a manipulation of a Christian system either using illicit means to achieve an end, or achieving goals that leave the system worse off and less open than before. Read on for the hack!
At General Conference, one item that was hotly debated was a motion to add pastoral accountability to church pastors regarding membership. It was sponsored by the Oklahoma conference, and would have made pastors accountable for decisions regarding membership. This was primarily in response to Judicial Council decision 1032, which erroneously gave sole authority to the pastor regarding membership. Sole authority is good and fine, but there must be some accountability, someone for a pastor to have to answer to if they exclude racial minorities, sexual minorities, or even people who are poor from their flock. [/soapbox]
the item failed by a mere 12 votes, and ¶214 in the Discipline will be the same for the next 4 years. But that’s not what is interesting to this blog’s readership. One of the primary arguments used on the General Conference floor against this measure came from Alice Wolfe, who (at least twice) claimed that this measure would have tied pastor’s hands and forced them to accept people into membership.Anyway,
That people would join a church just to not have to pay for a wedding. Really. Most UM churches do not charge members of those churches for building usage, such as weddings and funerals. Thus the people who would join to not have to pay for those usages would be stealing about $500 from the church coffers. That’s the scare tactic used by Wolfe which probably was just effective enough to get the 12 votes needed to defeat the measure.The worst-case scenario for Wolfe?
The worst-case scenario for Wolfe is a loss of $500. The worst-case scenario for for those who are gay is denial of membership from a church community that they love and contribute to.
This is an example of how top-down polity could easily be rectified by bottom-up policy. I’ve worked at many churches, and at least two I’ve been wedding and events coordinators for. In all of those churches, we had a local church policy: You must be a member for at least one year to have building usage fees waived. A simple policy, and as long as it is well-known, then people won’t come sneaking into your churches to steal $500 from your cribs…at least, not for a year.
scare-tactic, a straw-man fallacy that was true, but easily remedied at the local level. Instead, we still have a polity that gives sole judgment of receiving into membership into the local church pastor…without accountability. Wouldn’t it have been better to close the system’s loopholes at the local level than dictating it from the highest levels?There, isn’t that easier than top-down scare tactics that do not give justice to pastor’s decisions on membership? This claim by Wolfe and supported by members of the minority report was simply a
I’m ashamed at the fear-mongering tactics and the delegates who voted out of fear of a local church losing $500. I’m angered by our judgmental attitudes on people’s reasons for membership. And I’m a preacher, so I preached about it from my bully pulpit. From my sermon today:
We need to look at the long view, of what happens when people become part of a community, and give trust to God that the Spirit may actually enter into them despite their intentions. This church has accepted people who joined only to get their children baptized. This church has accepted people who joined only to get a members’ discount on a wedding. And you know what…we will continue to do so. Because we must have a bird’s eye view of things, and we leave judgment on people’s hearts to God.
I don’t pastor a fancy church with tons of disposable income that $500 is not needed. It most certainly is needed for ministry! But if a person is willing to take the membership classes and pledge UM vows, who am I to judge what is in their heart? I will leave the judgment up to God. If we lose $500, but there’s a possibility for a new disciple in Christ…friends, that is worth it. Heck, a year’s worth of pledges would most likely be close to $500.
We don’t like people who cheat the system, so we close it off to them. That’s human nature. But in this case, our desire to thwart others led us to value $500 over the chance to change a life by exposure to a Christian family and lifestyle. And that hurts my heart.It just tears my heart up that our polity lost a chance at inclusiveness by 12 votes because delegates were scared of losing money. Not all of them who voted against it voted for that reason, I’m sure, but 12 votes, 6 people? Most likely.
May the God of New Beginnings signal to local church clergy to trust in God when it comes to readiness for membership, and may their accountability be to Jesus Christ…who will ask them at heaven’s gates why they excluded from membership the least of these for $500.