Friday, April 25, 2008

Committee Hopping

I'm committee hopping this evening.

Mark asked me to sit in on Discipleship to see what's going on with the hymnal. The sub-committee has passed the resolution that deals with creating a hymnal to be submitted for approval at the 2012 GC. (remember, it still has to pass through the whole committee, and then through the whole conference, but it's on its way!) There was a good consensus from the group on this. They had obviously been talking about it, and the chair had created a document to kind of bring together the thoughts regarding a new hymnal. There will be one for the church, and they acknowledge that it will be primarily used in the US, but that it can be "a prologue to additional future work for other regions of the world-wide United Methodist Church."

After than I mozeyed my way over to the sub-committee dealing with human sexuality. They were working on a petition to adopt language about homosexuality that says we are conflicted, and have yet to receive movement from the holy spirit as to where we should stand on this issue, but in the conflict, we as a church urge the UMC and other churches to not pass judgement on anyone because of their sexuality.

I'm afraid it won't pass the entire body because of that last part...though I have to say, didn't God say something about do not judge, lest you be judged?

After that, I traveled on and sat in on Higher Ed talking about deacons' sacramental rights. Pretty good discussion. I kind of came in in the middle, so I'm not clear what they were specifically talking about, but basically I think they were discussing granting deacons the ability to proceed over the sacraments under the oversight of the bishop, and mainly focused in areas outside the local church, in an effort to bring the sacraments to places they would not have previously gone. Some of the response to that was that we have enough issue helping the lay of our congregations understand why the liscensed local pastor with (often but not always) limited education and training has sacramental rights, and the deacon with an M.Div. doesn't. Point being, it would further confuse people if only some deacons have sacramental rights (those serving "in the world" and others don't (those serving in a local congregation).

The issue with granting blanket ability to the sacraments to deacons is the understanding of the order of deacon as we now know it - that deacons are ordained to service and word, not sacraments.

This is an issue I have thought some about, but still don't really know where I stand. On the one hand, I can see how a distinction between the order of deacon and order of elder can and is a good thing. But at the same time, I really don't think it's right that liscensed local pastors have sacramental rights while deacons don't. I think the sub-committee decided to send that to a sub-sub-committee for more discussion on the wording they want to present. It'll be interesting to see where it comes out. I think it will be granted within the oversight of the bishop, ds, or elder.

Alright, I'm headed home for the evening, I hope! I'll be back on tomorrow. Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the reports and news. I've enjoyed getting your take on the committee debates and work.

On the deacon/local pastor issue, I think it is incorrect to locate the discussion around education.

The church created the local pastor because it could not send elders to every 30 member church. So, it needed someone with sacramental authority, lest there would be lots of churches without Holy Communion.

I don't understand why deacons are feeling slighted. The office of deacon is not a secret in the Book of Discipline.


Rachel said...

John, I appreciate your comments. I understand your point that the LC was instated to provide small churches with the availability of the sacraments. By giving deacons sacramental rights, the sacraments could, as well, be taken into places they currently are not found, namely extension ministries where currently only deacons serve. I don't think anyone is necessarily feeling slighted, and are aware of the office of deacon in the discipline. That office as it stands, however, is only 12 years old, I believe. I think we're still trying to figure out exactly what the office of deacon is and should be, since it is a fairly new element of ordination as it stands today.

James said...

Curious wording in that sexuality petition: "we are conflicted, and have yet to receive movement from the holy spirit as to where we should stand on this issue, but in the conflict, we as a church urge the UMC and other churches to not pass judgement on anyone because of their sexuality."

The thing is, we *have* received "movement from the Holy Spirit" on this issue, in that we have discussed it in Holy Conferencing *every* four years for the past forty years! Who defines when the Holy Spirit is working? Who gets to say when we have listened and when we have not?

Rachel said...

You'll have to forgive my wording, I don't know specifically what they said, but it was something along those lines.

The fact of the matter is, we are conflicted on this issue. There are people who feel strongly on both sides, which leads me to believe that we have not sufficiently heard the will of God (not that God hasn't spoken it to us, but that we have not heard it) because I am not sure God would move two people in opposite directions. When something passed with a less than 10 vote margin, even though it passes, I'm not sure it's the will of the body.

And as for your question as to who gets to say when we have listened and when we have not, for the UMC as a whole, it's this body meeting in Fort Worth right now. I hope that we all are in tune with the Holy Spirit, and constantly searching for the will of God.

Linda said...

ok...finally had to speak up. First, thank you Rachel for such an intimate window into GC.

As a deacon, my concern (regarding sacramental authority and the orders) is that this LIMITATION is influencing some persons who seem to have the heart of a deacon choose to be ordained elder simply because a deacon cannot serve Communion. A deacon is one who is called to specialized ministry. If this limitation continues, i do fear that this order will not be what was originally intended for the order of deacon.

And, if an elder is to have supervision rights - the hierarchy continues in a denomination where clergy and laity are considered "equal". Now, clergy are not "equal"...course they never have been.

Rachel said...

Glad to hear from you, Linda!

The legislation as it currently stands if I understand correctly, is that, if passed, deacons will have sacramental rights with the Bishop's approval in extension ministries. The intention is to spread the sacraments and these means of God's grace to places where elders are not serving.

There is a talking sheet for delegates regarding this. If I can get one, I'll let you know more of the issues, and I'll hopefully keep you informed of what's going on regarding this!