The Height of Hypocrisy

This week, the New York Times ran a story that proves corruption and cheating among African delegates to the recent General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The story promised follow-up stories to come.

I hope they do follow up. Because there are a host of issues that have needed to be addressed for at least a decade now.

These issues may or may not make any difference for the future of the United Methodist Church itself. In fact, as a friend told me yesterday, to him it’s just further evidence that the “brand” is “broken beyond repair.”

This may be.

But for more than a decade, it’s been the case that there are serious issues that needed to be addressed regarding the African Church. To be clear, NOBODY has wanted to ask these tough questions.

Conservatives don’t want to, because they clearly benefit from the current system and possible corruption.
Liberals don’t want to, because they are afraid of being called racists.
Moderates don’t want to, because they’re sometimes terrified of conflict.

Well, it’s time to rip the bandaid off, and ask the tough questions.

The REAL paternalism and racism is in the subtle racism of low expectations. With respect to LGBTQ issues, Conservatives talk about “faithfulness to the covenant” and “accountability,” but they consistently refuse to truly hold the African delegation to the same high standards that apply to other delegates. There is little or no administrative accountability to the “order of the church” when it comes to African membership statistics. And, there is clear evidence of possible corruption in other areas.

In addition to the issues of the NYT story, other issues that need to be addressed:

1. Are financial payments made to delegates from Africa? If so, who pays these? How are they reported?

2. If African delegates attend a pre-conference briefing and retreat (many do) how much of those costs do they bear? Or are those costs completely paid by outside groups? And if so, who?

As to these first two questions, let me just remind you that the US Congress —to take another example of a legislative body similar in structure of General Conference— has detailed reporting rules about gifts and financial benefits given to elected officials. My wife, as an official in the State of Texas, has similar reporting standards which apply to her.

There is NO required reporting for General Conference delegates, even though there is evidence going back a decade that points to corruption in this area. (This is a  blog from 2008)

Friends, it’s a bad day when you realize that CONGRESS has better ethical standards on these issues than does your denomination.

Finally, the biggest unaddressed issue…The alleged dramatic membership growth of the African Church.

I first wrote about these issues in 2011 and 2012.

When, in God’s name, are we finally going to be honest about the absolute lack of accountability over the church membership numbers in the African Church?!!!

It has been clear for more than a decade that the reported membership number (the number used to apportion delegates) is in some cases simply made up, grossly inflated, and that no one can actually verify or document what the real number is.

The LACK administrative accountability of the African Church to the entire UMC smacks of a paternalism and a racism of low expectations.

And it has real world implications for our denomination.

You may argue that the American Church, at times, also inflates its numbers.
But! The American Church has a FINANCIAL INCENTIVE (apportionment payments) to keep generally good membership numbers.

Therefore, without that financial incentive, and because the WCA desires the African Church’s membership number to be large and growing, we as a denomination have FAILED to truly ask the tough questions.

I will concede the theory that the African Church *is* growing…at some level….

But everyone else must concede that NO ONE knows or can produce documentation to support the number that is claimed. That is a FACT.

This last point has huge implications for our denomination, and is a major part of why we are in the mess we are in now.

Again, getting to the truth on these issues may or may not change anything about the future of the United Methodist brand. In fact, as my friend noted, it’s likely just more evidence of how broken, and possibly corrupt, the current system is.

And, there is a deep colonialism and paternalism that runs throughout our entire history, that got us into this mess in the first place. The American Church is most definitely paying for its past colonial efforts. But some are exploiting that colonialism too.

We know this right now, without any equivocation: The same rules don’t apply between Africans and Americans branches of United Methodism.

And we look the other way, to either avoid the charge of racism, because we don’t like conflict, or because the current situation benefits us. Meanwhile, we insist on the “accountability” for the American Church.

And I know this…

This is the HEIGHT of hypocrisy.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He is Senior Pastor of Kessler Park UMC United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. Previously, he was pastor at Northaven UMC in Dallas for seventeen years. Eric loves to write on topics of spirituality, social justice, music/art and politics. The entries on this blog reflect that diversity of interests. Eric is an avid blogger and published author, and 2017 recipient of the prestigeous Kuchling Humanitarian Award from Dallas’ Black Tie Dinner. (Human Rights Campaign) Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He’s a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named “best judge” by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County, and is currently the longest service district judge in that district. She was re-elected for a fourth term in 2018. They have the world’s best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. Find links to Eric’s music-related websites, at the top of this site’s navigation menu.

4 thoughts on “The Height of Hypocrisy

  1. So, now that the liberals lost it’s time to make the African Churches “accountable.” Liberal racism at its best; and I am an African-American who supports the One Church Plan.

  2. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Amplified Bible (AMP)

    Foundations for Living

    3 However, brothers and sisters, I could not talk to you as to spiritual people, but [only] as to worldly people [dominated by human nature], mere infants [in the new life] in Christ! 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Even now you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly [controlled by ordinary impulses, the sinful capacity]. For as long as there is jealousy and strife and discord among you, are you not unspiritual, and are you not walking like ordinary men [unchanged by faith]?

    Height of hypocrisy or (more likely) the depths of complete child like sour grapes depravity.

    Cannot change their laws because you do not have that kind of influence.

    So, the last absolutely worst step to take is to question their integrity.

    Only after they make the difference in such an important arena, seemingly because they stand by their God and the authority of scripture and the Book of Discipline, none of which any leftist will dare to do. Now you free fall into that forbidden, completely sickening abyss of openly questioning, tearing down their countries laws, ethics, honor and integrity. You cannot accept that just maybe God is full at work here, that this is God’s plan despite your dishonor.

    You give the world a glimpse of behavior more akin to a bunch of “allegedly intelligent” spoiled two year olds who’ll keep their thumbs in their mouths until, and not before, they get exactly their way in every matter under the sun.

    You “want what you want exactly when and how you want it!”

    1. Amen, Eric.

      You’re putting in writing what I’ve been saying for years. We’ve been hiding our heads in the sand for way too long. We progressives/liberals think that, if we can just persuade the folks on the other side of the issue of the goodness of our position, they’ll see the light. It doesn’t work that way. The structure of the General Conference rewards raw political power, and we’ve been running around waving our prayer flags and singing Kumbayah.

  3. If the Methodist Church is going to make its “Biblical” position on homosexuality clear, how about making the Biblical position on adultery and divorce equally clear? The Bible’s position on adultery and divorce are certainly less equivocal. Or has the leadership found it can still tolerate the stench of arrant hypocrisy?

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