Thursday, August 05, 2004

UMAction - Bigger is Better?

I just popped over to UMAction's website to see what they were up to. (I won't link to them.) I have to admit I had never heard of UMAction until I started serving on the General Board of Church and Society, a particular favorite target of theirs. Mark Tooley, who covers UMAction, comes to all the GBCS meetings, and at one of the first ones I was at we were debating the INFACT boycott directed at Phillip Morris. After the meeting, I read Tooley's account on the IRD website, and was shocked - the account of what had happened was totally skewed - whole sections of the conversation were left out to make it seem as though the Board had made a totally irrational decision that would end up hurting poor mothers instead of limiting tobacco advertising to children. It was ridiculous. Anyway, I digress, but that was my eye-opener to the methods of UMAction.
Today, on their site, I was reading responses and reactions to the politics of General Conference 2004. What make me made is that they equate growing/larger church membership in the South with greater faithfulness to the church and to Christ. Actually, I think great faithfulness is a difficult journey - it is not surprising, then, that great faithfulness does not attract the masses. Jesus suggested it would be so, that this way was narrow and difficult to travel. When did big numbers come to mean better Christian discipleship? It's so frustrating, and frustrating to see the UMC adopting policy that supports such thoughts, such as granting 37% representation on all general boards and agencies to the Southeaster Jurisdiction. I find it frustrating as a pastor. How can we make sure are voices, voices of justice, are heard? I think it is unethical, for instance, to inflate church membership rolls, or to fail to follow the process in the Discipline for removing inactive members just to keep our statistics up. But I also don't want to get stuck in a numbers game that cares only about increasing membership for the wrong reasons. I want people to hear the Good News of God's reign on earth. But not just so "we" have more "faithful" Christians than "they" do.
Anyway, I hate that groups like UMAction seem to claim that their supporters are the only ones who are faithful Christians, as if the rest of us who believe differently are only putting time and effort into justice movements because we are unfaithful or want to hurt and destroy our own church. I guess it is really a parallel thing to what is happening in the nation as a whole, with Republicans emphasizing morality, as if Democrats didn't care about ethics and values...
My rant for the day ...
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