I went to the "listening session" Monday night (April 7) with the Bishop and Loyd Mabry. It was...interesting.
Gavin has posted an audio of it at his blog, gavoweb. I'd encourage you to listen to it and see what you think.
I'm having a hard time. I appreciated the bishop's apology. It disturbs me that he's trying so hard to distance himself from the decision that has been made. I guess it's good, because he knows it was handled badly, and he's trying to not have the blame fall on him, but as the bishop, shouldn't it? It's apparent from other conversations that the bishop wasn't getting the whole story.
And then there's Rev. Mabry. He, apparently, doesn't see anything wrong with what happened. He still thinks he did the right thing, in the right way, and isn't willing to apologize, even though several people opened the door for him to do so.
I did speak, though I don't know how helpful it was because I got emotional and cried. My concern is with Rev. Mabry's response - that he doesn't think he did anything wrong. My concern is when something this atrocious happens, and the person at fault isn't willing to admit fault and apologize, then it can and will happen again.
I got involved in the youth ministry of the Tennessee conference when I was in the 7th grade. I've worked on committees; design teams; district, annual, jurisdictional, and general level committees for over 11 years, supporting the youth and young adult ministries of the TN conference. My mother has been the Coordinator for the children's ministries of the TN conference, working and supporting the ministries in that area. And, out of nowhere, the director of Connectional Ministries decides everything we've been doing is wrong. What does that say? It invalidates me, personally. They kept saying this wasn't personal, that we don't need to make this personal. They were saying that we shouldn't make this about the people who were let go, but it is personal - it's about me. It's about the ministries and missions I've devoted my life to for years, and in one fell swoop, they've made me feel like everything I've worked for over the past 11 years is worthless.
And, back to my concern, if those in charge don't see that they've done anything wrong, what if I do get on board with this "new vision." Say I move past this hurt and continue to be involved, and devote the next 11 years to this new outreach idea to at-risk, unchurched children and youth. What's to say that in 11 years, someone else, or even the same people, come along and wipe out everything we've been doing and usher in something new, following some new buzzword, and invalidate us once again.
Something I kept hearing was numbers. Rev. Mabry must have spouted off 10 different statistics, pointing out various "problems" and so forth. The problem is, ministry is a process, a journey, if you will. Ministry can't be about the numbers. It's not quantity, it's quality. We have to be offering quality ministry - relationships, care, grace, truth. Now, I will grant that the minsitries of the TN conference aren't as good as they could be. There's always room for improvement, and I know there are some who don't feel involved or inluded in the creation and development of the programs. But that can be changed without completely erasing everything that's going on and starting over. And that's not what I'm hearing as the reason behind these moves. The reason is that only 5% of people living in Middle Tennessee are members of United Methodist Churches. If we don't have numbers, what we're doing isn't working.
I feel worthless. And I feel helpless, unable to do anything to change the situation.
The petition is still going to be presented at Annual Conference, so hopefully we'll talk about it there. Other than that, I'm at a loss for what to do.
I apologize - you'd think that nine days after the meeting I'd have my thoughts a little more organized. But with being sick (I had an ear infection for 3 days before and five days after the meeting - fun) and trying to get caught up at work, I haven't had a whole lot of time to think about this. And part of me, I think, is still in shock, or devastated, and I just don't want to think about it. I mean, who really wants to dwell on the feeling of worthlessness and spend her free time mulling over conflict? I, personally, just want to go to bed.