The A&W Plan for Unity offered by Methodist Profs. Drs. Bill Arnold and David Watson has been lambasted or lifted up as an option through all our Methodist mess.
However, all such accolades and frustrations miss an important point. Like the Schismatics who are using spectacle to manipulate the Bishops, the A&W Plan has a sleight-of-hand/unintended consequence of possibly destroying two of the best parts of the United Methodist Church.
Sleight of Hand
A magic trick is all about managing audience attention. While they are looking at the hand out front, the hand in the back or the side is preparing the trick: A “randomly chosen” card is switched with a pre-chosen one, a button is pressed on a shadowbox, etc. As an audience, we can’t help it: we are seeking something new so we focus on what is in front of us, waiting to see what happens.
The A&W Plan proposes a seemingly flashy-and-simple-and-achievable solution. It has been venerated by some of the Via Media Methodists as the “dream solution” to our problems because it all-but-forces progressives to exit.
However, like a magic trick, there is more going on here in the other hand. I missed it the first time through (I was focused on how many of the points lined up with the failed achievement list of the Good News Movement in 2008/2012), but eventually we see that all is not what it seems.
Give a mouse a cookie…
The first three proposed points in the A&W plan are seemingly a compassionate way to allow progressive churches to leave the United Methodist Church. They allow a local church to leave with their property (which is owned by the global United Methodist Church due to a “trust clause” in every local church deed) and clergy to leave with their pensions. For a brief window, it would allow the following types of people to leave consequence-free from the United Methodist Church:
…for reasons of conscience related specifically and exclusively to the Social Principle on human sexuality (¶161F) and the Qualifications for Ordination (¶304.3)
On the surface, it would allow people who disagree with the UMC’s beliefs about homosexuality to leave the UMC. This is why it is appealing to staunch Traditionalists because it expunges the “problem” from our church. You see, while progressives see the problem as discrimination, Traditionalists see the problem as rule-breaking clergy and uppity gay folks. If they were given an ability to leave, then that would solve the problem. Done!
However, the vagueness of the language is the sleight of hand: it is only people who disagree with any aspect whatsoever of several full paragraphs of the Book of Discipline. Such a requirement could easily be relaxed at General Conference to allow more people who disagree to leave the UMC. But even if it was kept as-is, it is still vague enough that anyone (any church) in this brief window could choose to leave from the United Methodist Church.
But why would anyone other than progressives want to leave the United Methodist Church?
…and he’ll want some milk…
We’ve discussed previously the incredible wealth of those megachurches that seek to separate from the United Methodist Church. Here’s what we had to say about the financial clout of 9 identified members of the Schismatic 80:
These 9 white men (3 from Texas, 2 from North Georgia, 2 from Western North Carolina, 1 Oklahoman, 1 Floridian) are at churches that pay a total of $4,217,547 in apportionments.
Let’s be charitable and imagine that the rest of the 80 are smaller churches that hypothetically give 25% of these folks. If you take the 9 churches who give $4.2 million and add 71 churches that all give 25% of that amount, you end up with $12.5 million dollars in budgeted but suddenly undesignated money.
By offering an escape route, it would become easily possible for those 80 churches and pastors to leave the United Methodist Church scot-free and take a combined dollar amount equal to a mid-size annual conference (Oklahoma Annual Conference is a bit bigger than mid-size and its apportioned amount from churches was $16.6 million in 2013).
Who would benefit from this newly undesignated wealth?
- The money could create their own conference with that money and shared resources,
- The money could stay in the local church, or be given to many conservative/evangelical causes.
- But more interestingly, a chunk of $12.5 million dollars could be sent to train pastors who fit the schismatic profile and thus could easily flow to two already favored institutions: Asbury Theological Seminary and United Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. And who are at these institutions? None other than United Dean Dr. David Watson and former Asbury VP Dr. Bill Arnold.
Sounds like a win/win for A&W, even if such a scenario is not their expressed intent.
EDIT: Per David Watson below in the comments, he states that indeed financial benefits have not been discussed. I take him at his word. I will only say it is telling that I got 6 private messages, 2 emails, and 10 comments below that defend these two men and none take issue with the argument or scenario that I outlined here. Like a magic trick with one hand pointing at an overreach, I continue to focus on the other hand that is hiding a dangerous scenario for the entire UMC.
…and everything in the Church.
As I’ve written before, the reality is that the Schismatic 80 pastors are essentially triaged: they have already forsaken the connectional UMC. The nine identified pastors have an average tenure at their church of 18 years, including one pastor who has been at his church for 32 years. They do not represent connectional Methodism so much as congregational Methodism, and use the power of their purse to withhold funding from connectional work. If any door is left open for a consequence-free exit (with $12.5 million dollars waiting), it would be easy to embrace en masse.
The predictable response to this post will be the usual “aw shucks, what a lacking conspiracy theory. Of course we just want the progressives to leave, not the big churches!” However, make no mistake: the A&W proposal would make it incredibly easier for any number of churches and an incredible amount of money to exit the United Methodist Church.
And when the bell tolls, what would be left in the UMC? With the loss of evangelical resources due to this escape hatch, and the loss of progressive clergy and churches who can’t stand it anymore, the United Methodist Church would lose two of its most important and historically powerful aspects. The result? A timid lukewarm Methodist church which satisfies only the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who can rest easy in a job well done.
I reject this future, I reject this A&W plan, and I reject this self-serving and destructive action towards the church and perspective that I find to be the most authentic and transformative in our world today. May it not be so.
You played the white male card. Sigh. Maybe one day you can come to GSUMC and you can see how remarkably not white it is!
Otherwise, your analysis is thorough and your writing, as always, is precise.
I did not use the language of “dream solution,” nor did any of my colleagues associated with Via Media Methodists. In fact, the parts of the proposal I most lauded were the ones you completely ignore in this post.
Your point about the vagueness of the language has been raised previously with Watson and Arnold, and they clarified was that their intent was to only offer an exit for progressives who could not live in good conscience under the current BOD. (Because, shockingly, there are progressives – including some of us VMM folks – who want to see change, but not at the expense of unity or church order.) In fact, if you look at the first two comments on David Watson’s original post, myself and Stephen raise precisely this question: http://davidfwatson.me/2014/07/16/some-suggestions-for-a-unified-umc-or-the-aw-plan/
As I said before, the progressive paranoia about conservatives leaving has little to do with their desire to be in a diverse church (because the “Biblical obedience” folks seem perfectly happy to drive out everyone who disagrees with them – which apparently is a bad thing to do unless the progressives are the ones doing the pushing), and everything to do with the (well-founded) fear that the progressive conferences and jurisdictions could not survive without the money from the conservative areas.
Your beliefs on progressive paranoia are more than a little misguided. While no group is monolithic in their approach I think it’s about time you dealt with the mindset of most progressives instead of the extreme version you’ve got imprinted into your brain.
I want a diverse church. We want a diverse Church. A lot. We really do.
I want different types of worship that fit their contexts, I like that there are different church models and priorities between districts, conferences and jurisdictions. I honor and respect a wide swath of variance in approach and theological emphasis because I think that we are stronger together as the Body of Christ. Not only do I want this but a huge majority of my colleagues and friends from the Midwest and around the country want this.
But it’s not a diverse Church we have to worry about – we already have that. What we need is a more tolerant Church.
I don’t mean a weak “anything goes” tolerance but instead a deep peace in the knowledge that while some of our approaches and ideas are different are goals are the same.
1.To bring people into a deeper, transformative relationship with Jesus
2. To be the torch-bearers of God’s hope,justice and mercy in dark places.
3. To follow our Wesleyan heritage in how we approach 1&2 with an emphasis on “Do No Harm”
Because what you call Progressive pushing and what conservatives call “upholding traditional/biblical/cultural roles” while they subtly and not-so subtly make people out to be deviants and criminals and hellbound souls is all part of the same problem – it violates that third ideal.
I reject and abhor that which diminishes the personhood (the Imago Dei) of any of God’s children and so I reject claims from the left that conservatives as a group are evil or hateful or worth rejecting.
But I must also reject the claims of the right which destroy lives (literally) and sow fear and discord in pursuit of power.
I want the diverse Church we have, and look forward to a more diverse church in the future (not ready for Brony church yet though),but it looks like in order to keep it we’re going to have to become a more tolerant Church – from both sides.
I want a solution that favors grace over power and relationship over pushing away. I don’t care about money, or buildings – at all. I don’t want that to be the driving factor at all. That’s the last thing to consider, not the first.
We need to let go of our need to be right – I’m really bad at this, but I’m working on it.
We need actual conversation instead of letting reactionaries set our agendas.
We need better words – because we’ve charged up so many of them that they have become hand grenades that no longer do any good.
We need real prayer – lots and lots of it.
That’s my middle – come visit sometime and we’ll find the middle between our middles and see what we can accomplish!
[written on a phone if you can believe it – so please excuse the odd spelling and grammar issues – I’m not a great proofreader in the best of circumstances]
Julie A. Arms Meeks
Ben, that is EXACTLY what I want in our Church as well (says the Northern IL transplant to North GA). I don’t want hoards of folks driven away. I do want grace extended to all. I want better language to be spoken as well as heard. I want all to be recognized as beloved children of God not ONLY what other label(s) we/others attach to ourselves. I want those children yet to be born to also know they have a home in our Church and if we split, that problem will still exist.
I say this take of Jeremy’s is spot on. Not all will agree; not all will like it but that’s ok.
Intent is nice and I accept A&W at their word. However, as the saying goes “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” NO, I’m not saying they are going to hell (stop the hyperventilating). I’m saying that good intentions with the A&W plan doesn’t negate the very real scenario that the plan makes it easier for conservatives to defeat the Trust Clause and leave the UMC, taking their centuries-old trust with it.
And thus far, no one is disputing it.
Jeremy, speaking of sleight of hand, this post demonstrates plenty of it. It is a lightly veiled attack ad hominem attack. I can tell you that Bill and I never discussed monetary advantage for either of our institutions in any of our conversations. This is not what we were after. Critique the plan if you will–I have no problem with that. But to suggest that Bill and I wrote this plan out of some plan to gain finances for our institutions is unconscionable.
David thanks for stopping by. As I indicated in the post, it clearly is not your expressed intent: what you all talk about offline is not my concern.
All I’m pointing out is why schismatics would support your plan and who benefits from it: and I don’t believe it is the UMC. I find it odd who does if you actually play out your proposed scenario.
I’m clearly out of my league here, just a PE surving in obscurity, but I respect both of you, David and Jeremy, very much. Dr. Watson and United saved my faith and nurtured my call back from the depths of liberal dispare and emptiness. I am a bit appalled that you would suggest that even unintentionally Dr. Watson would seek financial gain from the demise of our church. Also, what damage would come from places like United and Asbury, seminaries who clearly train effective pastors, receiving more funds. God knows so many of our other seminaries, who take MEF monies, fail at creating healthy Wesleyan pastors some of which don’t even qualify as “Christian” anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with the full inclusion of GLBTQI persons, but a despise the watered down useless faith that liberalism has created. One with out a truly resurrected Jesus.
I’m glad you had a good experience at United and are living out your call to ministry, Josh. However, taking potshots at progressives while saying I’m taking potshots at your mentors isn’t helping your case any. There are plenty of healthy Wesleyan pastors who are Progressive that absolutely qualify (even to your stilted checklist) as Christian and worship a resurrected Christ. Stop reading the blogs and get to know the progressives in your area.
Josh, I am grateful to know that United has had such a positive impact on your faith. God bless you.
Jeremy takes a cheap shot (really false witness) against Watson and Arnold and despite a firm denial from Watson and NO evidence besides Jeremy’s fevered imagination (or trying out attack lines for RMN). Now that is an example of holy conferencing!
Seriously, which jurisdiction currently insists that the rest of us pay for their bishops while contributing nothing toward the central conferences and the retirees? Is it the “schismatic” Southeastern Jurisdiction? No! It is the “connectional” Western Jurisdiction! Instead of empty rhetoric, let’s look at the facts.
It’s telling when you get 6 messages, 2 emails, and 9 comments defending two conservative titans…and zero dispute the actual argument. Not a single person above disputes that the A&W plan would make it easier for *conservative* churches to leave the UMC–regardless of the intent of the writers. I don’t mind the voices of outrage because the silence is deafening on the actual proposal.
Because you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. The language could easily be changed so that the outcome matched the intent of the writers. You are parading this a slam-dunk critique when this was something that was noticed immediately.
Thanks for engaging the argument. Specifically, what language would you propose that avoids the scenario above?
As any lawyer will tell you, any crack in a law or time span of non-appliance in a law yields an ability for a secular court to deem it invalid. I don’t want the UMC to end up like the TEC with litigation just because folks thought they were opening the door for gay folks to leave and instead they lost $12.5 million overnight.
Just another point about the mythical “$12.5 million.” Isn’t that “$12.5 million” in total apportionments including what stays with the annual conference? I doubt that there are any combination of 80 churches across the whole connection that pays $12.5 million in GENERAL CHURCH apportionments. But, when you are flailing for talking points, bad math is what you get.
I wish there were some leaders in The United Methodist Church who could demonstrate a deep loyalty to the Gospel by their willingness to give it ALL (salaries, pensions, church buildings, etc.) up for Jesus’ sake. At this point our “leaders” seem more interested in holding on to the things of this world than to the promise of God’s provision when we seek first the Kingdom of God.
Rev. Dave Bean (retired UMC Elder)
Good discussion here and much appreciated. Regardless of what the underlying motivation or the overt intention of the Arnold/Watson Plan for Unity, Jeremy’s critique is indisputably correct in pointing out a very real and plausible consequence of the A & W Plan were it to be adopted in its current iteration. I ascribe no malevolent motives to either Jeremy or Arnold and Watson. One could legitimately argue the merits of Jeremy’s use of the “sleight of hand” metaphor insofar as it may convey an intentionality where none exists. However, one cannot dispute the “unintended consequences” raised by Jeremy’s critique.
I think this post rests a bit too much on inductive assumptions. It sounds like you’re accusing Watson et al of some kind of elaborate conspiracy.
This problem with dialogues about these issues is that assuming malicious intent is so common.
Jeremy, here is my response to the substantive content of your post. I have quoted from your posts the portions that I find objectionable and offered responses.
1. “This is why it is appealing to staunch Traditionalists” – Do you mean conservative evangelicals? The Via Media Methodists have critiqued the plan, but also written some positive things about it. You have overstated the limitations of the appeal of this plan.
2. “You see, while progressives see the problem as discrimination, Traditionalists see the problem as rule-breaking clergy and uppity gay folks.” This is a mischaracterization of the conservative position. Given how sharply you have critiqued the Via Media Methodists recently for allegedly failing to understand progressives, it is unfortunate that you have so facilely mischaracterized the conservative position. The issue for conservatives is that some progressives have flagrantly violated our shared covenant and their ordination vows. This is more than simply “rule-breaking.” Having a “big tent” in the UMC means that there will always be people who disagree with our positions and policies. The only way the “big tent” can remain big is that each of us understands this and works within the proper structures of our system to make changes. If we fail, we should either live with our disagreement (with the option of continuing to work for the change we want) or make a conscious decision to leave this covenant and enter into another with a group with whom we are in more agreement.
3. “However, the vagueness of the language is the sleight of hand.” If our language is too vague, it is not a “slight of hand.” This phrase connotes intentional deception. I concede that we could have written this language more precisely in keeping with our intentions.
4. “ Such a requirement could easily be relaxed at General Conference to allow more people who disagree to leave the UMC.” This is a bit of a red herring. Any proposed legislation at GC can be changed. We can only make suggestions according to what we would most like to see happen.
5. “We’ve discussed previously the incredible wealth of those megachurches that seek to separate from the United Methodist Church. Here’s what we had to say about the financial clout of 9 identified members of the Schismatic 80.” The “schismatic 80” recently released a document that is not calling for schism, and, whether you agree with their positions or not, are asking the bishops to enforce the Discipline to maintain unity.
6. “If you take the 9 churches who give $4.2 million and add 71 churches that all give 25% of that amount, you end up with$12.5 million dollars in budgeted but suddenly undesignated money. By offering an escape route, it would become easily possible for those 80 churches and pastors to leave the United Methodist Church scot-free and take a combined dollar amount equal to a mid-size annual conference (Oklahoma Annual Conference is a bit bigger than mid-size and its apportioned amount from churches was $16.6 million in 2013).” This hypothetical scenario seems to imply that all of these churches would want to leave the UMC. I don’t get the sense that they want to do this at all. Perhaps some do, but most don’t. I refer again to the recent document at Methodist Crossroads. If these folks really wanted to leave the UMC, they are smart enough to find a way to do. In many conversations that I have had with evangelical pastors across the connection, my sense is that leaving would be an absolute last resort, predicated upon continued dysfunction in the upholding of the Discipline.
7. “But more interestingly, a chunk of $12.5 million dollars could be sent to train pastors who fit the schismatic profile and thus could easily flow to two already favored institutions: Asbury Theological Seminary and United Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. And who are at these institutions? None other than United Dean Dr. David Watson and former Asbury VP Dr. Bill Arnold.” Really? Asbury and United would get all of this money? Wow… What about Ashland? Seattle Pacific? Fuller? Indiana Wesleyan? Evangelical seminaries are the fastest growing group in the Association of Theological Schools. For a new evangelical UM denomination, this could be a real field day. And there have to be some loyal Duke grads in that group.
8. “Sounds like a win/win for A&W, even if such a scenario is not their expressed intent.” For me, and I believe for Bill as well, a UMC split would be a lose/lose. We love this church. We are loyal to it. We both want to see it stay together.
9. “The result? A timid lukewarm Methodist church which satisfies only the Institute on Religion and Democracy, who can rest easy in a job well done.” The IRD is lukewarm? Are we talking about the same IRD? The one headed up by Mark Tooley and John Lomperis?
Dr. Watson, thank you for taking the time to address the arguments in the post, despite the rhetoric that was offensive to you. I’ll likewise respond to your critiques by quoting your replies:
1. “Do you mean conservative evangelicals?” Not precisely. I use it in the same way that there’s a difference between Muslim and Islamist, Christian and Christianist (see Andrew Sullivan), and conservative and Traditionalist. While there are plenty of conservative evangelicals who are willing to accept movement on the church’s stance towards LGBT inclusion, there are those who 100% reject any change because of biblical interpretation and tradition. As I wrote at the end of this post, I think the number of people who would accept movement if it is the will of the church is higher than one might think if one just read the blogs. Conservatism is a helpful perspective and glad conversation partner as we discern the best for the church: wooden veneration of 2000 years of Tradition as dictative of all polity change is ignorant of our own embrace of women, rejection of slavery, and other tweakings of “tradition.”
2. “The issue for conservatives is that some progressives have flagrantly violated our shared covenant and their ordination vows. This is more than simply “rule-breaking.”” I accept that and admit my characterization was not charitable. As I’ve written before, we already live aware of competing covenants in the UMC. Where you (generally) see the covenant as necessary poles to hold up the big tent, progressives (generally) see the covenant more honestly as one among many. They then have to decide what stance to take in a church they disagree with, which I wrote about here.
3&4: Thank you.
5&6: “The “schismatic 80” recently released a document that is not calling for schism…[Your] hypothetical scenario seems to imply that all of these churches would want to leave the UMC. I don’t get the sense that they want to do this at all. Perhaps some do, but most don’t.” While you clearly would not hold me responsible for knowing about that document that was released the same day I published this critique, I’m not sure it’s a clear argument that they are NOT moving towards schism. Their original press releases (post #1, post #2) were all we had to go on (given their secret membership list), and while I’m tempted to say that the public’s response to their writings may have mellowed their approach a bit, I’m still cautious that they are just waiting until GC2016 elections are over to start the push again. But that’s my perception of how meta-methodism works after observing and advocating at three GCs.
7. “Really? Asbury and United would get all of this money? Wow…” I apologize as it was uncharitable to lump you both together. However, given the push to move MEF funds to voucher-based rather than institution-based has come from conservatives since GC2000, following the money is an appropriate conversation to have (just in a more charitable way than the above). It is important to ask who benefits from the schism movement.
8. “For me, and I believe for Bill as well, a UMC split would be a lose/lose. We love this church. We are loyal to it. We both want to see it stay together.” I believe you and see your commitment in this conversation. As a progressive, I read your A&W plan as the only current “solution” that is most dismissive of progressives and openly inhospitable to the adaptive ways how we have survived being at-odds with our big tent church. That’s how I read it. Regardless of my reading, I would hope painting the scenario above would aid future “solutions” in being more considerate of the unintended consequences of their proposals (just like the conservatives jumped on Hamilton/Slaughter for their perceived unintended consequences).
9. “The IRD is lukewarm? Are we talking about the same IRD? The one headed up by Mark Tooley and John Lomperis?” My grammar may have gotten in the way of a proper interpretation. No, I mean the IRD wants a lukewarm UMC that stays out of foreign affairs, stops commenting on public policy, and ceases its prophetic stance against unchecked neoconservatism…and keeps sending them money. I could be more specific, but my point was removing the evangelical resources and the progressive perspective from the UMC would be a terrible thing indeed celebrated only by those caucus groups who I don’t believe have the UMC’s best interests in their hearts anyway.
Thank you for your engagement and I appreciate you taking the time to address my substantive points in a clear, articulate way.
Jeremy, I respect the honest difference of opinion about these matters. I know the plan is not perfect. Both Bill and I knew that when we wrote it. My hope is that people of many different perspectives in the UMC can move forward in cooperation and unity.
Re: #2, if you are using “our shared covenant” as a weapon to silence those who disagree with you, you’re doing it wrong.
Trust, trust, trust… this is the crux of the issue.
Brian Felker Jones
I am sorry it has taken me so long to get back and read this again! You made some excellent points, many of which I agree with . . . but I have some questions: It seems to me that one of you main objections is the idea that anyone who disagrees in any way the UMC’s belief on homosexuality will be able to leave the UMC. This leaves it open to large mega-churches (largely more evangelical) leaving the UMC. Am I reading you correctly? If so, would you mind if the “A & W Plan” changed so as to indicate one can only leave if you are theologically opposed to the UMC’s current belief on homosexuality instead of just a vague “disagree with”? Thanks for the discussion!
“No, I mean the IRD wants a lukewarm UMC that stays out of foreign affairs, stops commenting on public policy,”
A view from the pew: I have spent quite a bit of time monitoring the conversation between progressives and conservatives. There is a reason you talk past each other because you are coming at Christianity from two totally different perspectives. The above statement identifies that perspective. Progressives want to change society by legislation; conservatives want to change society one person at a time. Progressives and conservatives are a disconnect between the two parts of Wesleyan Christianity originally held in tension so well–the individual vs the social. As much as Wesley talked about the social aspects, he also stressed the individual aspect of transformation every bit as much. Here is his definition of the church–and I apologize I do not have the source handy–note what he says happens FIRST
“This is the original design of the Church of Christ. It is a body of men compacted together in order to first, save each his own soul; then to assist each other in working out their salvation; and afterwards, as far as in them lies, to save all men from present and future misery, to overturn the kingdom of Satan, and set up the kingdom of Christ. And this ought to be the continued acre and endeavor of every member of his Church; otherwise he is not worthy to be call a member, therof, as he is not a living member of Christ”
Christianity, including Wesleyan Christianity, is a matter of God transforming society one individual at a time. For Jesus, for Paul, and for Wesley, it started with the individual! And Wesley was extremely clear that any true religion started with holiness of the individual heart.
I am a flaming conservative in total disagreement of the progressive agenda. But at the same time I realize that you are a much needed voice to push us to get up and act. But what you have lost sight of is that the UMC has become too much about the social transformation to the detriment of the individual transformation. The UMC does not need just progressives or conservatives; it needs both held in the proper tension to each other. And John Wesley was a master of that. Wesley preached a gospel message to individuals; they responded with the question “What does this mean for my life?”, Wesley gave shape and substance to the Christian life of individuals and Methodism was off and running. And early Methodism was anything but a democratic process; Wesley restricted who preached and what they preached.
As a woman who has both strong convictions and a deep desire for collaboration, I personally find posts like this off-putting. As a woman in ministry, one of the last things I look for is yet another male clergymember to guide everyone in how he thinks they should think.
Kindness is so rare. Regardless of the strategy you’re analyzing, I believe we all should practice kindness and generosity of spirit. Instead, this post oozes sarcasm and a level of heightened adrenaline that unfortunately reminds me of the memorably aggressive Romney-Obama debate.
A little less Olbermann, a little more Pope Francis, and lots of love towards those different from ourselves – including Traditionalists.
Jeremy, The idea of any churches leaving and taking their properties with them doesn’t bother me.
What does bother me is that there are also a pile of potential liabilities like market forces acting to underfund pension plans that have have a claim to those assets. Downsizing isn’t easy and it costs money to do even simple things like lay people off, and letting any church walk with assets free and clear leaves the remaining churches in worse shape.