The Process Protects the Mission
By: Sherri Gragg
The Rev. Dr. Laceye Warner, associate professor of the practice of evangelism and Methodist studies at Duke University, believes the legislative process serves to protect the mission of the UMC.
The Book of Discipline is, at times, complicated and dense. The legislative process is lengthy and sometimes tedious. The Rev. Dr. Laceye Warner says that is a beautiful thing. We sat down with her on the fourth day of GC2019 to find out why.
Q: As a professor of Methodism, you clearly find value in the “methodism” of the legislative process. What are the gifts of “methodism” as a structure to work through difficult conflicts?
A: There is something very special about framing the deliberation contained in our conferencing within our doctrine and connecting it to our missional imperative. While there are understandably tedious details, when framed within our doctrine and our commitment to mission and evangelism through baptism, it puts everything in a different light and creates opportunity for all of our ministry. The Book of Discipline, while sometimes dense and difficult to understand, includes threads that create a fabric of our story and our practices of ministry.
Q: What value do these processes hold for a global church that is so incredibly diverse?
A: I love that we can organize ourselves together as a delegation and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in the midst of conflict. For an international church, that is amazing. There is this incredible gift of grace in gathering for the work of the church in one room with people who speak in different languages, live in different countries and understand their ministry in unique ways. We are better for it even in the midst of difficult times.
Q: How does the attention to detail and procedure empower mission?
A: The General Conference is the authoritative voice of the denomination. In its gathering, there is a balance of power. The Bishops preside, the General Boards and Agencies submit legislation and observe. The delegates, people living out their baptism in all sorts of places, from lay people to clergy, are the authoritative voices of the church. It is wonderful to have a representative international body gather as the authoritative voice of a denomination in this day and age.
Q: How does this balance of power and the process help protect the church?
A: The process preserves the mission with serious intentionality. The goal of the process is to create a framework through which our own human failures and sinfulness are somewhat contained, so that it is a just proceeding for all.