Tough Decisions Made Graciously and Pastorally

That pounding sound that’s shattering your nerves is the countdown to the July 5 official opening of General Convention. Beating the drum is one thing, but causing a commotion for the heck of it, is something quite different. Unfortunately, there’s been a bit too much of the latter in recent days.

We’re speaking specifically of the increasingly raucous back and forth that is filling the blogosphere over the budget and over some of the national-church restructuring proposals. Check the websites and list serves, and you’ll find too many cases of strongly held opinions morphing into something approaching personal attacks.

The national-church staff at “815” seems to be a favorite target. There have even been some web references to national church staffers not working hard enough.

Don’t misunderstand. A caring, trusting community should feel free to speak candidly, even when the issues involve potential pain and suffering for individuals. But let’s not forget a couple of other ingredients too when making these decisions.

One is the pastoral element we need to display when we’re talking about budget cuts that could disrupt and, in some cases, upend people’s lives. And then there’s the issue of hope. We’re a Gospel-based church that believes in possibilities; we’re not a bunch of sourpuss “frozen chosen.”

With the kind of hard-edged commentary we’ve seen so far, there’s a real danger that this year’s special dynamics at General Convention will lead us down an unnecessarily negative path. There appears to be just as much work to do at GC, but less time to do it. That translates into a rise in pressure and, potentially, in tempers.

So it’s important for all of us to refill our spiritual reserves of pastoral care, and to pump up our predilection for the positive. The odds are that a candid, responsible General Convention will need to face up to some unpleasant decisions when it comes to budgetary items. In doing so, we will be far from unique in today’s world.

But what can potentially set us apart is the example we offer for how to make such tough decisions graciously and pastorally. Our community of faith is often judged by how we handle our toughest challenges. This is as it should be. After all, we are a church with a long track record for building relationships and for mediating differences. That’s the inspiring legacy we need to build on in Indianapolis.

–Ed Jones, Editor

Categories: GC2012