Tag Archives: inclusiveness.

Inclusivity

I was at a meeting a few days ago where we tried to elect a chair of a group. Ought to be pretty simple, right? Everyone of us was an ordained pastor with college educations and masters of divinity degrees.

An hour passed and we finally elected five people to serve as a “team” of leaders with the highest vote getter expected to be the ‘convener’ who would act as THE chair when we needed someone to represent the group at conference events.

The thing is, our bishop had released us to go to our meetings with the idea that we were trying to ‘discern’ what GOD wanted… and WHO God wanted… as our chair.

Now, by my understanding, to discern what God wants is akin to saying find out God’s idea and then go with God’s idea. After all, if you aren’t going to follow God’s directions, then why ask what God’s will is?

But before we voted, we were subjected to parliamentarily confusing procedures (that not even ROBERT with all his rules would recognize), specifying that IF the vote didn’t go the way we thought it ought to with the right ‘inclusivity’ then we would add some people to the ‘team’ to better reflect the inclusivity of our church.

We prayed and listened for God’s leading and then each one marked their ballot and submitted what we felt we had heard God say. And five pastors were chosen.

And, lo and behold, 3 of the 5 chosen were white men and 2 of the 5 were white women. Apparently God must have made a mistake because there were no other minorities represented. SO… the tellers were instructed to find someone of color that got some votes. And that person was added to the team and thus, now, God’s error was corrected.

HUH?

Can we honestly claim that we both heard God when we voted and discerned the top five and then also claim that we have to correct the results of the discernment process? Do we really believe God helps us discern? Because it seems more like we believe WE have to fix God’s discernment process!

And personally, if INCLUSIVITY is going to be the standard by which we judge God’s will and God’s discerning process, then why did we only ask about whether we were inclusive of gender and race. Were we inclusive age-wise? How many elected were in their 20s? 30s? 40s? 50? 60s? Isn’t that part of being inclusive?

How about being inclusive of geography? How many were from the Pittsburgh area? How about Connellsville or Erie or Kane Districts? Isn’t that part of being inclusive?

How many were pastors of large membership churches? How many from small membership churches? Isn’t that part of being inclusive?

How about the liberal/conservative realm? Or the people who have brown eyes compared to those others? How about the bald ones vs. the full head of hair ones?

At what point does the fallacy of ‘inclusivity’ get recognized as just one more DEMONIC way of DIVIDING people?

Now understand, I am personally in favor of trying to be fair to everyone… but as the church we claim that we are ABOVE the practice of treating people differently because of race, creed, gender, etc. So why are we now making such distinctions so important?

And the particular man of color that was selected happened to be African-American, but were we slighting the native-American pastors or the Asian-American pastors or the Hispanic-American pastors? Will he be able to speak for the minority women? A white male apparently can’t be trusted to look out for white females… so how’s a black man going to speak for an Asian woman?

Now, I happen to respect that particular man, and I think he can be a great help to any team he’s a part of… but what are we saying when we claim that we voted based on what GOD spoke to our hearts and he was not elected… but we want him on our team, not because he has anything of value to offer but just because he happens to have been born with the right skin color we want to be seen with for political appearances?

I am embarassed. I am disgusted. That man has MUCH more value than just being black. His skin color has NOTHING to do with his ability to be a good pastor or a good representative for a bunch of pastors.

And by putting ourselves in the place where we claim to hear God and yet we then have to ‘correct’ God’s revealed will as discerned by the body, then aren’t we setting ourselves up as being more wise and more just than God is?

Is that really a smart move?

Let’s resolve to STOP looking at whether someone is black or white or male or female or rural or urban or old or young and let’s just SEEK GOD AND HIS WILL! And then luet’s just do it!

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you as well.”
–Matthew 6:33
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Discernment

I was at a meeting yesterday of our conference’s latest attempt to address the need for a governing body to meet in between annual conference sessions to oversee the ongoing ministries and carry out the wishes of the annual conference. We’re calling it the Conference Connectional Network.

It was sort of a meeting… It was billed as a retreat… but Larry Homitsky, Frank Sherman, and I were the only guys NOT in a dress shirt. In fact, several guys were actually wearing ties (and one nut was wearing a collar!!!! But in fairness, Keith claimed it was because he had been at a funeral beforehand… OK, whatever!)

In any case, it was a good meeting/retreat where we were able to establish some common understandings and goals.

What has stuck with me the most, however, was towards the end when Bishop Tom Bickerton led us in the selection of officers for the new group. He set the ground rules as being a process of discernment, not nominations and elections.

We passed around the Post It notes and we each prayed and wrote down a name of one of the members of the group that we thought might be the one God Himself wanted for whatever position. No nominations were allowed. No speeches. No reminders.

And through that process, there were just a few that really seemed to “come to the top” in each category. The bishop then asked us to take another Post It note and we prayed again and wrote down the name that came to mind from that group. In that way, eventually, we were able to discern the Rev. Greg Cox as our chair, The Rev. Gary Grau as our vice-chair, and The Rev. Keith McIlwain as our secretary.

COOL PROCESS!!!

But then I remembered back to annual conference when we all claimed we wanted to use discernment as the way we were going to select our delegates to General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference. I don’t think it worked as well as it was meant to… and definately not as well as last night’s process.

Part of the problem lies in our conference rules that sets up a pre-nomination kind of requirement where people can “put their names in the hat” on their own by writing a summary of why they would be a good delegate. Then the different districts can nominate them or, if they don’t secure that nomination, they can simply find 25 others to agree (by signing a petition to nominate them) and they still appear at the front of the list when we go to vote at the annual conference session.

Part of the problem this past year was that there were some unscrupulous folks that sent out anonymous letters campaigning for their own favorites for laity delegates. As I’ve said before, anonymity has no place among Christians who claim they are taking a stand for righteousness and justice. Jesus, Paul, Justin, Martin Luther, John Wesley, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and scores of others took stands for righteousness and justice and did it bold-faced and stood up to be counted… and IDENTIFIED. The only ones I find that took stands anonymously were folks who were on shaky ground like the folks who wore masks, hoods, and robes to cover their intimidation tactics in the middle of the night as they burned crosses. That kind of ‘stand’ has no place amongst those who stand up to be counted for Christ.

But I believe there was another problem this past June when we were trying to discern God’s choices for delegates. When the process wasn’t producing what was considered to be the right results, people were allowed to make speeches to suggest candidates… in the spirit of inclusiveness.

Now I believe in inclusiveness… to a point. We should NOT be deliberately excluding people and need to constantly be on guard to make sure that the systems and organizations we are in are accessible to all. But to claim you’re seeking God’s will and using a process of discernment ought to preclude all of those suggestive reminders. After all, if you’re listening to GOD, then can’t GOD simply tell you who is GOD’s choice???

Does that mean that we were saying that God might not select the right delegates? Or are we saying that inclusiveness is more important than discernment?

And on that note… if we’re really going to be inclusive, then why were we reminded to be inclusive based on skin colors? I thought United Methodists were against such labelling. Don’t we say that we DON’T make decisions based on skin color? And while there were reminders of several African-American candidates, how come nobody suggested a Korean or Native-American? We have people of both of those backgrounds as well in our conference.

And come to think of it, why were we being reminded that we needed to be inclusive based on gender? I thought United Methodists were against making decisions based on gender.

And if we are really going to make inclusiveness the god that we get our discernment from, then what about the geographical representation? Did anyone check to see if the 10 clergy delegates and 10 laity delegates were truly representative of the 10 different geographic districts in our conference?

How about income? Or politics? Or age? How about the small membership churches and the big membership churches? How about those like my congregation where we’re not big but definately not small? Were we represented?

How about the skinny and larger members? Was there a representative inclusiveness? How about those with green eyes and those with brown or blue eyes? Was there a representative inclusiveness?

Maybe we could really be inclusive if the clergy divided equally between those who wear collars and those who don’t.

NOW… let me be clear and say that I think the whole attempt to make inclusivity the MAIN decision making factor is ridiculous. No matter how inclusive you try to be, someone is going to feel left out. Because in struggling for inclusiveness we are actually focusing on our differences and we are, in effect, making bigger divisions.

I think we, in the church, ought to be about discerning God’s will… not just trying to be inclusive. If we are discerning God’s will and hearing God’s leading, then we can trust the process of discernment… without speeches or reminders… just like our Bishop led us in our group last night.

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