Christian Education, Denominational Governance and Social Justice

Recently I was appointed as the Lay Representative to Annual Conference for my local church here in North Carolina. Like many positions of responsibility that work with larger governing bodies, this position is one that most people do not want. Though the position comes with a great deal of local power, like automatic membership on six key church committees, it also a time hog (those six committees again),and requires the ability and willingness to travel to and attend Annual Conference and then report back to the local congregation about what happened at said conference.


One would not be exaggerating to say that my local church was ecstatic to hear that I actually volunteered for the position. No one else wanted the position, and the person who did it last year did not enjoy the experience.

Unfortunately, a United Methodist Church Annual Conference can be a confusing and extremely boring event for the average layperson. A seemingly endless array of committee, group, business and church reports are given, complex legislation and resolutions are presented, debated and then sent to a vote, and most of the business of the Annual Conference doesn’t really seem to apply to the interests of the local church.


In reality, though, the exact opposite is true. The business of the Annual Conferences of the United Methodist Church sets the theological, business, policy and fiscal tone for the church for the coming year. On those years leading up to General Conference, the Annual Conference becomes the place where the creation of worldwide policy for the denomination begins.


Though many will say that one person and one little vote cannot make a big difference in an organization as huge as the United Methodist Church, I beg to differ. One vote my not count all that much, but the way our system works allows for one VOICE to be very influential.

Case in point, the UMC stance on GLBT issues. Every Annual Conference I’ve attended since I graduated from seminary back in 1995, had at lease one resolution, discussion, or report regarding GLBT issues ranging from support of GLBT in our communities to attempts to restrict their participation in our congregations, districts and annual conference. Policy is made at Annual Conference. If we are supposed to be living Christ-like lives and seeking social justice in our local communities, don’t you think it is time that we take every opportunity for supportive voices to be heard?

I know I will only have one voice at Annual Conference, but I assure you that I will be heard, I will be a voice for social justice, and my little congregation on the Haw River will be well represented as a congregation seeking social justice.  And while I’m at it, I’ll be encouraging my local congregation to stand up for social justice.


Oh, and if you are wondering what set off this post, read this lovely essay from Faith in Action.   Every now and then we all need a little kick in the pants to remember that Christian Education is as much about action as it is about learning and teaching.

Dr. Mel


~ by sideseat on November 28, 2011.

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