Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comparing Denominational Gatherings

Taylor Burton Edwards posted a really interesting piece over on emergingUMC contrasting the Episcopal Church's recently wrapped-up General Convention with the United Methodist Church's most recent General Conference. He has a unique perspective because his wife is an Episcopal priest and was a deputy (delegate) to the Convention, while as an employee of the General Board of Discipleship, he was deeply involved in General Conference.

I know the Presbyterian Church (USA) just had their General Assembly, and the tidbits I've heard seem like the tone was as negative as at our General Conference, and I know the Disciples of Christ will have their General Assembly next year, and I hear that their gatherings tend to have a generally positive tone.

I do wonder what it is that makes big denominational gatherings that are each dealing with similar issues such as structure, budget, and human sexuality, take such radically different tones. As Taylor points out in his piece, there were a number of factors over the last four years that fed into the contrasting demeanors of the Episcopal and United Methodist gatherings.

But I also wonder if there might be a more general issue of a sense of denominational identity that plays into the tone of these gatherings? Do the Disciples and Episcopalians get along better because knowing who they are creates a more collegial atmosphere? (Yes, I know the Episcopalians have been at war over sexuality and that many of the more conservative lay and clergy have split off, and will likely continue to do so after the GC)

I'm still sitting on some ideas that I think might make future UMC General Conferences easier, but I'm probably going to wait until after this week's Jurisdictional Conferences are over to share them. This time next week we'll all know who our Bishops will be for the next four years!

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