Sunday, April 27, 2008

Too Much Inclusiveness? Oh my!

Being politically correct is a difficult thing, but we work hard at it as United Methodists. So let me warn you, this post is about my present frustration with our fanatical insistence on inclusivity, so it would not be PC sanctioned.

There are many people who for a variety of reasons observe the work of our Legislative Committees. Sometimes there is an overflow crowd. But once about 100 chairs are filled, that’s it. But our rules say that four seats are reserved for the PC monitors. Two monitors from the Commission on the Status and Role of Women and two from the Commission on Religion and Race record the proceedings in terms of what “type” of persons speaks and how much.

I have no problem with that, and neither do I mind a report from the Monitors, letting us know what they see. We want to be respectful of others and encourage full participation and such information helps us. But twice now, as we have begun our Legislative Com. sessions, the Monitor has then told us what we needed to do. We needed to have more laity talk. We should have more women (“except not clergy women because they’re doing fine”) talk. We need to have more of our international delegates talk, etc.

Why? Do we get pretty stars on our petitions if we achieve the undefined goals of full inclusiveness? Is the reason for the great expenditure of our time and money to report equal participation, or is it to primarily get the work done that we were sent here to do?

Let me explain a little. On our LC we are dealing with matters of ministry, ordination, conference relations of all categories of clergy, etc. To deal with some of the petitions, you have to have a good working knowledge of our rules regarding ministry (the 300 paragraphs of the Discipline), and how things work on the Board of Ministry.

We have several clergy members of our LC who have such experience, DS’s, former DS’s, BOM chairs and members, etc. There may be laity who have such knowledge as well, but the many times we have struggled over how a particular petition relates to the “whole picture,” it’s been a clergyperson who’s gone to the mike to explain. We have essentially been lectured not to do that. Why? Because it is apparently more important to be politically correct on our inclusiveness than to efficiently get our work done.

I was talking with one of our translators whose degree is in cultural relations. She said the international delegates have different cultural expectations for participation. We want them to speak and give their opinion. She said their attitude is, “If I am comfortable with my opinion, why should I give it to you?” Also, they cannot understand why we Americans are so ready to give our opinions without being asked.

She gave a few more reasons why, for cultural reasons, many of the international delegates do not wish to participate by speaking. And yet we’ve made it a high priority to not only provide everyone equal access, but to make everyone participate equally.

So, yes, I challenged the Chairperson on this. I did it quietly during a break. I informed her and our parliamentarian that our Rules of Organization do not allow non-LC members to speak to our group, unless they are speaking to the issues we are working on and the body has voted to allow them voice. According to our rules, the Monitors have no basis for speaking to us as a group. She was very agreeable and we’ll see what happens.

To many people this rant may seem minor. But this situation is repeated over and over throughout the Conference. I think we have to offer participation to all and to conduct ourselves in a way that shows respect of persons and their opinions. But when we mandate it, despite practical needs or cultural differences, and place parity as our highest value in the process, we have erred just as bad. May God save us from ourselves.


Matt said...

Thanks for sharing this Stephen. I've really enjoyed your posts - even when you're frustrated! If you kept silent, we'd be even less inclusive, right? :-)

Joseph said...

Better to be inclusive, informed, and silent rather than inclusive, speak ignorantly, and bog the work of the committee down.

If you see Mamma Deacon tell Her hello for me.

Jim said...

I just don't believe this is what God intended when She began leading us into a more inclusive life.
Sounds like we are about three miles past the "too far" line.

MWritten said...

I totally AGREE. One of my biggest concerns with our church is that we are too worried about being politically correct and not worried enough about being Biblcally correct. Yes, we need to treat each other with respect - and love, but let's worry about pleasing God first and man second.