In Mark 14, a woman came to Jesus while he was with his disciples. The woman came and broke an alabaster jar full of “pure nard” on Jesus’ head. She dried his feet with her hair. And the disciples went bonkers, crying out “think of how much money that costs!”
This scripture bubbled to the surface of my consciousness as I sit right now in the General Administration committee of General Conference of the United Methodist Church. This is the primary locus of the Call To Action point five: to reorganize the upper echelons of the UMC. We’ve been writing about it a lot so I won’t rehash it.
But the tension in the room when all three plans were presented (including the body allowing MFSA to have two representatives present their plan, which I support) was that nearly every question from the Plan B supporters was about costs. What does it cost? How much does it save?
I think Kevin Nelson, New York reserve delegate, gave the best answer. He said that their goal was to look at the mission of the church and see what structure enabled the mission instead of how much it costs. The mission and the representation of the mission was the most important. Including more Central Conference representation increases travel costs, but, to the MFSA plan, it is worth it.
Adam Hamilton, in all fairness, says in his support of the Call To Action plan: “The goal is not how much money can we save. It is how we can work better together.” But all of the Plan B supporters keep asking questions of how much something costs.
In my evaluation, underneath the questions about costs is the reality that there are some VERY large church pastors in here. The pastor of the largest church in Oklahoma who pays the most Apportionments is in here. All of these churches stand to cut their apportionments the more they cut the upper bodies down. From the observers’ gallery, it seems like solely the proposal that cuts the most costs is going to win out.
Jesus said at the end of the exchange in Mark 14: “But remember I tell you the truth that, wherever in the whole world the good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9 CEB)
Central conference representation increases costs, that is true, and money is one aspect, but the ability of our denomination to grow and represent is more important. The ability of our denomination to be representative and forward-thinking in our mandates (MFSA requires 10% more young people and racial/ethnic minorities than any plan).
My prayer is that we are also doing what allows us to announce the good news in ways that the people who receive it will also have a voice at the table.