UMC Constitutional Vote Results and Connectionalism

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Connectionalism just got a kick-start by United Methodists from around the world. All 23 constitutional amendments offering a regional conference, diocesan polity have been declared by the Council of Bishops as “rejected.” As a lover of our polity, I am elated. For me, to have voted otherwise would have been antithetical to Wesley’s oft quoted adage, “The world is my parish.” We would have ended up with fragmented competing entities with insurmountable differences.

Connectionalism is in our DNA because it reflects Wesley’s theology of sanctification. In his mind we best reflect the Moral and Social Images of God. If God is perfect and dares in Matthew’s Gospel to declare that we are to be perfect as God is perfect then it’s possible to be made perfect in love, by God’s Grace and the reign and rule of Jesus in our lives. As for the social image of God, God reveals God’s self to us via the Trinity, the Three-One-God. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit reflect a divine dance as in the Eastern Orthodox understanding of the Trinity’s perichoresis. I love that word: peri – around and choresis – dancing. God is in a social community within God’s self always moving, dancing, and dynamic in working on behalf of creation. If God reflects community so should we!

So our connectionalism is under girded by our theology of being followers of Christ, a social community, a connection of people who desire to be transformed by Jesus and transform the world! Our connectionalism, like God’s internal perichoresis, works best when it is appreciated as horizontal rather than vertical. Connectionalism that is vertical is anti-social at worst and breeds paternalism and all sorts of resistance to a top-down hierarchical “You do it this way or else!” limited thinking. God is in process always working and that is best seen in a connectionalism that promotes equity, shared ministry, and collaboration.

The vote on the constitutional amendments feels like we are getting it right and moving toward mutuality. As we (as I’m a member of the Worldwide UMC Study Committee)continue to do our work, I pray that we embrace God’s self-revelation as a means for us to discern how we are to live into the UMC’s global nature. Go connectionalism! It’s a God-thing!

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