United Methodist district superintendent (Grand Rapids District) Laurie Haller takes a cue from a book on surviving in a corporate environment to make some suggestions for United Methodist leadership in her post Orbiting the UMC Hairball 4-12-10.
Amongst other things she notes:
The whispered truth is that The United Methodist Church suppresses creativity and genius in favor of the status quo. We want to tame entrepreneurs because we don’t know what to make of them. When they do wildly successful ministry, we remain suspicious of anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into the “image” of a United Methodist. Even when such leaders bear luscious fruit, we’re still threatened because the fruit looks more like oranges than typical West Michigan United Methodist apples.
I’d call it a focus on making United Methodists rather than Christians. I recall a meeting at which my wife was discussing materials. The book in front of her was produced by Baptists. A dedicated Methodist in the room was afraid that we shouldn’t put this in front of the members, saying, “This is a Methodist church, and as long as we have that cross and flame on the sign in front we should present Methodist curriculum.” Amongst the complaints about the book? It had too much Jesus. (No, I haven’t figured out precisely what that means!)
Surely our Methodist congregations are secure enough in their faith that it won’t be threatened by a bit of Baptist curriculum!
Rev. Haller suggests that we learn to orbit the UMC hairball rather than getting sucked into its growing gravity. She has a number of suggestions for how to do so. I think these suggestions are generally good, though rather incomplete.
Somewhere in there we’re going to have to recover our passion for the gospel itself or any method we use will go nowhere. I’m not suspecting that Rev. Haller would deny that, but it’s something I like to emphasize. If we can once get people listening to the Holy Spirit, God can move things along. (Not to mention it’s God who will get them listening in the first place!)