Bishop Carcaño on the good and bad of GC2012

 By Bishop Minerva Carcaño, Special Contributor…

On the last day of General Conference 2012 I went by the information booth. I was on my way to my last official responsibility and I wanted to make sure I knew where I needed to go. Our wonderfully kind United Methodist volunteers from the Florida Conference were there serving us all with their smiles and extraordinary hospitality. I went up to a volunteer at the booth, she greeted me with great warmth and asked how she could help me. As she asked, I realized that there was a beautiful little girl by her side, so small that she was hidden by the front booth half wall, but there she was, waving at me and smiling. It was clear that she felt part of the welcome team and was doing her part to welcome and help me. I said hello to her trying to match her sweet and loving spirit. How I wish that all of our churches had this kind of welcoming spirit.

The little girl then went off and I began to receive the help I needed from the woman at the booth. Before the adult volunteer could fully direct me to where I needed to go, though, the little girl returned with a small plastic box and lifted it up to me. It was full of band aids. I looked at her and I know she saw the puzzlement on my face because she then lifted up her box a bit higher and told me I could take one. I wondered what she had seen, looking at my hands wondering if per chance I had a paper cut. I didn’t see anything on my hands or my arms, but I took a band aid, and watched as the little girl smiled even bigger as she fulfilled her task. I walked away and somewhere down the hallways of General Conference I realized that this child had sensed woundedness and was responding to it. It wasn’t my woundedness, it was our woundedness. Our 2012 General Conference showed the world our woundedness as United Methodists.

Many good things happened at General Conference. They did not necessarily happen through legislative processes though some of the good came through our legislative work. Establishing a global theological education fund to help prepare persons for ministry, our commitment to mission and ministry around the world supported by a strong financial plan, the commissioning of missionaries to serve in a great variety of settings, our continued commitment to US racial ethnic plans, our ecumenical work, and certainly our Service of Repentance and our clear covenant to repair the cruel offenses we have committed against indigenous peoples, were all good things that came from our General Conference. I also rejoice in the great diversity we saw at our General Conference 2012. I heard many more voices from young people and persons from Africa, the Philippines and Europe. There were, in my opinion, deeper conversations on the floor of General Conference about what it means to be the church than in previous recent General Conferences. But here is where I saw our woundedness. We bared our woundedness through our fear of failure, our racism and sexism, our homophobia, and our U.S. centric attitude.

I support our direction for renewed ministry among our congregations in the U.S. Our Vital Congregations efforts to help our churches become more fruitful in making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world are critical and important, but our efforts should never compromise our integrity out of a fear of failure. What I saw in the effort to pass the Call to Action and IOT recommendations felt to me like a manipulation of the process and rules of decision making that govern our General Conference. We are in decline in our U.S. ministry, a decline that concerns all of us, but if we allow a fear of failure to so dominate our thinking and our work that we are willing to lose our integrity in order to pass a piece of church legislation, then we have lost already; lost our way, lost our purpose and mission, lost our faithfulness. I believe we must have serious conversations about what happened at this General Conference starting with conversation at the table of our Council of Bishops.

Our renewed racism and sexism was captured in the words of a delegate who in an effort to eliminate our Commissions on Religion and Race and Status and Role of Women rose and stated that she was a pastor and received the flyers of training events of these commissions and they weren’t helpful to her one bit. Her language was derogatory of the work of these commissions who have long labored to help us be faithful to our commitments to overcome our racism and sexism, obstacles to our fully being the body of Christ Jesus. In a denomination that continues to be over 94 percent White, this delegate is right; it’s going to take more than monitoring and training, it’s going to take a conversion of our hearts to address our racism and sexism.

Our homophobia was blatant as we heard delegates compare homosexuality to bestiality, and voice other dehumanizing expressions against our LGBT brothers and sisters. Delegates from Africa once again proclaimed that their anti-homosexual stand was what U.S. missionaries taught them. I sat there wondering when our African delegates will grow up. It has been 200 years since U.S. Methodist missionaries began their work of evangelization on the continent of Africa; long enough for African Methodists to do their own thinking about this concern and others. Our conservative U.S. United Methodists continue to depend on the conservative vote of African and Filipino delegates to maintain our exclusionary position on homosexuality, a position I believe would be changed for the inclusion of our LGBT sisters and brothers if a U.S. vote for a U.S. context were taken. The manner in which we deal with the concern of homosexuality affects all of ministry in the U.S., and we are the poorer for it. It is time for us to let go of our wrong position and be the church of Christ Jesus, a church that excludes no one.

Then there is the U.S. centrism that has forever led our General Conferences, from our insistence on the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, a system of decision making used in the U.S. but nowhere else in our global church’s decision making processes, to lengthy discussions of U.S. issues with no comparable discussion of issues relevant to ministry in other places of the world. I for one was terribly embarrassed and even ashamed when much time was again given to a discussion about our U.S. clergy benefits. It is not that our clergy do not deserve to be supported through equitable compensation, health and pension benefits. It is that we in the U.S. have benefits that others in our connectional church do not have. Why should our sisters and brothers from the Philippines, Africa and Europe be subjected to our long discussions about such matters? It felt to me like salt in the wound of a church that is inequitable and that reflects the economic values of the world rather than the economic values of the kingdom of God. Our Central Conference Pension Initiative is on the right track. All our clergy around the world should have the caring support of the church as they strive to serve Christ Jesus. United Methodist laity at every place in the world should be able to count on the support of The United Methodist Church as they minister in the world in the name of Jesus.

I have heard over and over again the statement that without the U.S. church the rest of United Methodism around the world will fail because the U.S. church foots the bill. I no longer believe this U.S. centric statement. We have much to learn from United Methodists in other regions of the world who give sacrificially, for whom serving Christ Jesus is primary, and who believe that above all, we are citizens of the reign of God who has come among us with grace and mercy through Christ Jesus, and who does stand as the Sovereign One above all powers and principalities.

One day during plenary in the middle of a particularly difficult discussion, a delegate expressed concern about the witness the body was giving. The delegate said, “The world is watching us.” A few minutes later another delegate rose and said, “If we think the world is watching us, we are delusional!” Well, the next day the New York Times reported on our General Conference discussion! The world is watching! Let’s deal with our woundedness, so we can focus on the woundedness of the world. Let’s pray to the Lord for our healing so that we can be His church in the world, agents of His grace and mercy. In our healing we will find our hope and the joy of being, truly being, Christ’s own church in the world. But even as we wait for our own healing, let us be faithful disciples of Jesus the Christ, wherever we may find ourselves.

Bishop Minerva Carcaño leads the Desert Southwest Conference.  This essay appeared first on the conference’s “Desert Connections” Website.

 

Join the conversation....

  1. beckymotley says:

    I appreciate your comments on inclusion. He said, "Love one another."
    No qualifiers or adjectives. Plain, simple, inclusive – PERIOD!

  2. creed pogue says:

    There are times when it is obvious that a person in authority is functioning in their own reality separate from the one that most of the rest of us inhabit.

    Parliamentary procedure is used around the world to run meetings for deliberative assemblies. It is supposed to ensure that the will of the majority is done while respecting the rights of the minority. It is not a plot of the white man to keep their lessers in check. It is not a good system but much as Winston Churchill said about democracy: it is the worst until you compare it to the others. “Holy conferencing” (or consensus-building) only works if you have possible compromise outcomes that are acceptable to the broad majority. I would imagine that Bishop Carcano is unhappy about the constant filibusters by the Senate Republicans that prevent decisions from being made, even decisions that would be supported by a vast majority of the members if they had to vote. Obviously, in the US Senate, there is not consensus and there are people who are dedicated to preventing anything from getting done. Is the answer for The UMC to further empower people with that mindset?

    In Bishop Carcano’s paradigm, a female delegate is sexist if she says that the programs of GCSRW and GCRR aren’t helpful to her or her church. Instead of taking that as yet another indication that GCSRW and GCRR need complete overhaul or abolition, Bishop Carcano’s response is to double down. Bishop Carcano has served as bishop for Desert Southwest for the past eight years. Have the overall numbers increased or decreased? Has there been any meaningful improvement in the numbers of “non-European” members of the Conference? Or is that yet another proof that spending $5 million a year to proclaim that The UMC is racist and sexist is not likely to encourage racial minorities to join?

    How much more belittling can Bishop Carcano be of our African brothers and sisters? When she talks about “growing up,” I can only imagine that many of them would respond, “Look in the mirror.”

    Devolution in the United Kingdom runs into the “West Lothian problem” where decisions are made at different levels and people who are not affected by a decision still participate in the making of the decision. Chopping apart the USA and the African church probably isn’t a good solution to it. But, the Worldwide Church Amendments failed because Bruce Robbins and others made it clear that if they were approved, one of the first orders of business would be yet another attempt to legalize our gay non-celibate clergy who are currently serving while having violated their ordination vows every day. This is yet another rehash.

    As a bishop who receives higher pay, better benefits and better job security than the clergy and certainly the laity enjoy, talking about how bad it was to debate a new pension system on the floor seems a bit much.

    Regarding Bishop Carcano’s financial acumen, the current structure of the central conferences is unsustainable without support from the USA. I do wish that Bishop Carcano would show the self-awareness that the rest of the USA is subsidizing the Western Jurisdiction bishops as well. Right now, the Western Jurisdiction barely pays enough for the bishops they have and contribute NOTHING toward the retirees and central conference bishops.

  3. rev run says:

    Which will it be – African delegates "grow up" (in your words) by accepting your (very US-centric) viewpoint, or lose the US-centrism?

    • innotof says:

      Her obvious US-centrism is in part to explain why the UMC is declining in her part of the world. To belittle the Africans, telling them to "grow up", is to be expected from the "tolerance" crowd that will only tolerate their own point of view. From all the irrelevant goings-on I read about, it surprises me that the theme was Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. Activism doesn't cut it. Just preach the Gospel! Preach the Gospel!

  4. normtip says:

    I believe the bishop is saying we have a lot to learn from the rest of the world about giving sacrifically but nothing to learn from the African church about issues of human sexuality. Let me get this correct: We should not be U.S.-centric about finances but should have the exclusive right to be U.S.-centric on LGBT. Thanks.

  5. jeffreyconn says:

    Thanks, Bishop Carcano for your courage in speaking out. You are inspiring me to do the same. I do have sympathy for the African delegates because they live in such a different culture. I wonder if they will remain when we finally eliminate the rules against gays and lesbians.

  6. jmcadams says:

    So it seems that issues of "racism and sexism" need to be addressed.

    And this is in the same essay where Africans are demeaned by being told to "grow up." And a woman is derided for questioning the (politically correct) way in which the UMC addresses "racism and sexism." She, supposedly, is a sexist.

    Somehow, when people want "racism and sexism" addressed, they only want it addressed in a certain way. When the politically correct victim groups don't play their assigned roles, they are demeaned.

  7. What? …Our African delegates need to grow up? On what basis one should one come to this conclusion? This is demeaning our African brothers and sisters in Christ who stand for the truth.

    I wonder what our role as church leaders should be when dealing with such a divisive issue. May the Lord forgive us all and help bishops as well as other leaders to lead God's people in a way that all they do or believe does not compromise with the truths we find in the Scripture.

  8. I really wish our American leaders would "grow up" and try to learn from the African bishops so that the United Methodist Church in the U.S could become as vital and growing as it is in Africa. We have so much to learn from our African and South American brothers and sisters in Christ. As an alternative, to the Call to Action, I would suggest rotating all U.S. bishops through a 2 to 4 year tour of duty in an African or South American Central Conference to see how to improve church vitality. Praise God for what our African and South American brothers and sisters are doing for the Lord!

  9. jmcadams says:

    >> I would suggest rotating all U.S. bishops through a 2 to 4 year tour of duty in an African or South American Central Conference to see how to improve church vitality. <<

    Oh, my! I hate to think what that would do to the church in those areas.

  10. thundercloud says:

    Bishop Carcano should take a bit more time and thought in her rebuke of the GC. The open discussions and divergent positions on important matters facing Christ's church are our strength not our "Woundedness" as she calls it. John Wesley gave us a process, our "Method" toward making decisions. The delegates at the GC each took time to study the issues, pray for God's guidance, and discussed the rationality with other good people from various backgrounds and thoughts.

    I do appreciate the good Bishop's thoughts and impressions. They add to the discussion and debate, but demeaning others positions by telling them to "grow up" as if they were unlearned or unthinking is simply not helpful. I have spent some months on the Dine (Navajo reservation). I continue to see well meaning Christians imposing a European translation God's Word. Bishop Carcano might want to look inward to recognizing the amazing spirit of indigenous peoples and their own understandings as God speaks to them in their own language.

    Our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe hear God's call in various ways. I love and respect each one as God has commanded me. We are NOT a country nor do we defer judgement to a CEO or Pope. Our task as a church is to openly discuss issues together. To study the issues. To pray for His guiding hand. Then to vote our conscience as best as we are able. After the voting is over, we can continue to discuss and pray, but we should all be satisfied that we are one body. One church, in Christ Jesus.

    I love Bishop Carcano. God loves our Bishops, all of them. Even those who hold different points of view…

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 

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