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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 ...


Anonymous said…
It would help if you were more specific in your criticisms of Mark Tooley. I mentioned him to my pastor and I could see his blood pressure rise, visibly. But when I asked for specific criticisms, he could not give any--just generalizations not backed up by any examples. What I have read of Mark Tooley's writing is entirely consistent with what I know of the Methodist Church's hierarchy and his criticisms are well placed. If he is deceitful or misleading, I want to know about it--but when I ask for evidence, no one answers.
Beth Quick said…
Hi Wayne - I understand your desire for more specifics. What I mean about Mark's writing is this.
The incident I referred to was in a conversation over joining the INFACT boycott against Kraft last quadrennium. Someone suggested not joining it because it would take a way a cheap source of food for poor mothers, macaroni and cheese. Someone else pointed out that this didn't make sense - the boycott only asked people to boycott Kraft macaroni and cheese, not all mac and cheese. When Mark reported on the conversation at the UMAction website, he only brought up the first point, not the part about the specific brand. I found this irresponsible to people not at the meeting who could only read reports to guage their opinion. I felt he was leaving out a key part of the conversation because it fit better with IRD's viewpoints. This is just one example, I know, but it is the one I have most direct involvement in, since it was a meeting I was at. I'd suggest reading "United Methodism @ Risk" if you want to know more. It has a lot of details about IRD.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for speaking out! A member of my congregation recently brought me a letter they received from Mark D. Tooley and UM Action, and I was greatly disappointed but not surprised.
First of all, I find it amazing that the organization name begins with UM to draw people in and has nothing to do with the United Methodist Church. I find this highly unethical. He alos ends with a P.S. asking the receiver of this letter to send him a church directory.
Regardless of the validity of any of his arguments, his tactics are bordering on unethical. Interesting action for someone who is continually condemning others while claiming the high moral ground for himself.
Anyway, thanks again.

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