The Games we play….

Someone stopped me today in the Convention Center to ask me what I did for a living. I explained, “ I study organizations, their communication, and how they work.” The questioner just shook his head and said, “Boy I bet the last three days have really given you something to write about.” To that all I could say was, “You ain’t lyin’.” Truth of the matter is, if this General Conference had been 8 years ago, I would have had at least 4 books by now and now be an MSNBC commentator (hey, if every other professor who has written a book can get a MSNBC show so can I) and a frequent guest on Meet the Press.

For the last 36 hours, the authors of Plan C have been huddled in Ballroom 24 of the Tampa Convention Center. Everybody knew where they were and folks came and went like it was a Quick Trip at 7:30am on a Monday morning. Do not be fooled by the misinformation some want to put out there—there were a little bit of everybody around that table—Plan B; IOT; Central Conference; and at a later stage, MFSA. What emerged was a plan that had a little bit of everybody’s ideas including MFSA’s. They demanded 10 points of reference and got 6 of them—that’s better than the Democrats in Congress can do. The plan shaves a considerable of board agency size while allowing for a more nimble structure, when you do a quick comparison, you will find that the representation of Plan C takes strong advice from the MFSA and Plan B.

The sticking point seems to be the fact that lost in this reorganization is the Commission on Race and Commission on Women (yes, I know their titles are longer but I have been typing them all day). What emerges is a single entity, called the Committee on Inclusion that keeps the same function but not the same structure. Frankly, what this means is the loss of some leaders/board members and any time there is loss there is anger. Don’t think the Archives folks are happy either. As an African American woman seeking ordination, do not think that I take issues of inclusion lightly. At SMU I am only one of two African American women tenured in my college and only one 9 African Americans tenured in a faculty of over 700. So I don’t want to hear anybody tell me about his or her stories of being excluded. Been there AND fighting that. I also know there are a number of ways to make sure voice and representation is obtained. Am I happy that these two key Commissions are lost? Nope but I understand the principal behind it. Reorganizations rarely make people happy—Why? Because like it or not reorganization means we must try a new way of doing things.

Late today, perhaps in rallying the troops several missives emerged on the Convention floor, around the hall in the gathering areas, and online accusing the Plan C folks of being racists, control freaks, who were Anti-woman, Anti-youth, and Anti-Central Conference. At first I thought, this wasn’t true and then I started reading it and hearing it for myself. Again, it became a better day to be a scholar than a member of the Church. When honest disagreement becomes dishonest character assassination—something has gone terribly terribly wrong with the Body of Christ.

Want to hear something crazy? There were actually people who are aligned with MFSA who said that they liked key elements of the plan but they refuse to support it because they don’t like the process. They actually said that they would rather vote everything down to teach the Church a lesson. Really? And you want to be taken seriously as the future leaders of the Church. I hate when Congressmen play chicken with my life and for daggone sure hate it when my fellow Methodists play chicken with my denomination.

Honestly, I only want the Church to have an honest debate with honest theological, structural, and organizational arguments. If those arguments are persuasive fine, if they are not fine but we have too much at stake to let pettiness, yes, I will say it even if no one else will—childishness, get in the way of sincere attempts by Methodists of all colors, political ideologies, agency commitments, etc to try to get our organizational ship in order.

The strategy of divide and destroy have rendered not just the United States but France, Spain, Italy, and much of Africa unable to move forward to address the shifting reality of the needs of its people. I am confused how these same politics will benefit a Church that carries the one message that can change the world into the place God intended it to be.

Let’s hope that those intending to play the game obstruction understand the lives they hold in their hands both inside and outside of the Church. If you are against the plan, vote no because you are against the plan. But if you know the plan is a good plan, then the only statement you make by voting against it is that your ego, your way, and your ideology are more important than the Church. If you choose this route, just own it. Don’t hide behind righteous indignation or moral superiority—just call it what it is—your move in the game of destroy the Church.

About Maria Dixon Hall

The Rev. Dr. Maria Dixon Hall is an associate professor of organizational communication and non-profit studies at Southern Methodist University.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14425505147342311474 Patrick Moore

    Please hurry up and get ordained so we can nominate you for Bishop. Your last three blogs posts have the most sane commentary on UM life I have read in several years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15041946387554729336 When EF Talks

    Thanks so much for this…again, your blogs are turning out to be some of the most honest and helpful analysis for those of us not there.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12565991519031441666 Jared Littleton

    As you engage in your own character association, I'd hope you'd link to Jeremy Smith's blog (havkingchristianity.net) to allow people to form their own opinion on your claims of his immaturity. Furthermore, I wish you'd avoid unsubstantiated claims about mfsa's involvement in this "compromise". Exactly where do you get the claim the 6 of 10 of mfsa's principle's were met? This is simply untrue (we've had 3 core values, none of which were met). I appreciate your desire for this specific change, but I don't appreciate the way you seem to claim to rise above the pettiness while making misleading claims.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12565991519031441666 Jared Littleton

    Edit- hackingchristianity.net

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02652243211136799653 larry

    I really like reading your post. This is what happens when the Church becomes too political and neglects seeing things with spiritual eyes. I was discontinued as clergy because I was told I could not articulate my faith. However, every person I come in contact with tells me I am the most articulate person they know. I am returning to college to enter the medical field. I am through with Church and religion because in my experience, the Church seems to fail at fulfilling its mission because of issues mentioned above.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15407270221399825834 Maria Dixon, MDiv, PhD

    Jared:There maybe confusion as to who is negogiating for whom and this was the point of contention for those of the MFSA members who felt that they had been sold out by their own.So while you may have heard two elements, I heard 6 elements out of 10.Frankly, as I said in the blog, my real issue is not Plan B, IOT, or even MSFA approaches–I am not a delegate– it is the rhetoric surrounding the outcome that I find troubling and yes, sadly–childish. I have sought to hold my friends in all plans (and I do have them in all of them) accountable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05537488818155807315 Mike

    Thank you for this view. I wish I would have been sitting in on those discussions instead of in the plenary hall. There are definitely at least a couple books to be written on this process, both from an organizational perspective and a strategic communication perspective.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12565991519031441666 Jared Littleton

    I appreciate your response. The MFSA position can be found at gc12.org or http://www.plumblines.org. I value your wanting to hold people accountable, I'd just request we be more clear about what one individual might claim about the mfsa position and the actual position that has been published publicly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18424587406465161537 John Wesley Leek

    I'll look forward to reading your further analysis. As one with a background in public relations and journalism I've been surprised how poorly some things have been communicated and by the lack of shared assumptions. Thank you Maria.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13225508688155073922 cspogue

    I've read a lot of Jeremy and immaturity is definitely one of his problems.


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